Environment: Ozone Depletion and River Ganges

Effects of Human Activities on Environment Climate Change Just about a year back, I came across an article in which environmentalists expressed their concerns that if the Gangotri glacier (that feeds river Ganges) kept melting at its current rate, the river Ganges would soon dry up. River Ganges is the holy river of India, which has served as a lifeline for centuries for millions of people on its banks. Rivers have played an important role in the survival of mankind, and many of them are fed by glaciers.

Global warming refers to the increase in the temperatures of the earth due to release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane from industries and vehicles. This phenomenon is causing the glaciers to melt at an alarming rate. Not just the Gangotri, but even the polar ice caps are melting at a faster rate than they can form. The result is increase in the sea level, and it poses a danger of drowning the low lying areas. Some of the areas that may go under the sea if the sea levels kept increasing include Bangladesh, parts of Africa and even major cities like London and New York! Depletion of Ozone Layer

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The stratosphere has a layer of ozone that protects us from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Exposure to these layers cause skin cancer and cataracts. However, the ozone layer filters out the dangerous UV rays from sunlight as it enters the earth’s atmosphere. The cholofluorocarbons (CFCs) that are man-made chemicals are released in the atmosphere through CFC containing aerosols, refrigeration equipment, foam and as by products of certain industrial processes. As these chemicals are released, they rise up into the atmosphere and break down the ozone molecules that form the ozone layer.

There is an ozone hole in the Antarctic stratosphere that is causing great concern to environmentalists all over the world. Not only is the depleting ozone layer harmful to human beings, but the UV rays can destroy a certain type of bacteria known are Cyanobacteria that are important for a number economically important crops. Researchers are even predicting that excess level of UV rays could lead to the death of the phytoplanktons, that are an important component of the food web of the oceans. Pollution Industrialization has been the hallmark of human progress.

However, with industries have come a host of toxic gases that are being released into the atmosphere even as I write this article and you read it. The industries release gallons of liquid waste into the seas and rivers. Some of the effluents percolate down to the reach the ground water and pollute it to the extent that it can’t be used by human beings for drinking or cooking. Besides adding to air pollution, the innumerable vehicles running on the roads add to noise pollution that has lead to increase in stress, anxiety and problems related to hearing.

Pollution of water has led to the decrease in a number of large number aquatic life forms. Migratory birds are known to change their course due to pollution or change in weather. Respiratory diseases in human beings is another price that we are paying for polluting the environment. Deforestation Expanding population, industrialization and need of land for development of expanding cities has led man to cut down forests selfishly. Not only are the forests home to a large number of animals, trees are also an important component of the water cycle.

The roots of plants hold the soil together and prevent soil erosion. The global forest cover has shrunk to half its area in the last 11,000 years. During the period between 1990 and 2000 itself, the yearly loss of natural forests 16 million hectares. Deforestation at such alarming rate has been a cause of constant worry for environmentalists the world over. Extinction of Species Man has been killing animals right since the time he acquired the skill of hunting.

Although in those times hunting was the means for survival, human beings continued to kill animals even after he had learned to cultivate crops. The relentless hunting by human beings, sometimes for the hide of a cheetah or the tusks of the elephants, or simply to cook the tasty shark fin soup, has wiped out the existence a large number of animals in just a century. Besides hunting, human activities like environmental pollution and deforestation has led to the extinction of a large number of animals and plants due to loss of habitat.

Recent studies have shown that in North America, 37 animal species have become extinct in the last 50 years due to human activities. Loss of habitat led to the extinction of the Bali subspecies of tiger in 1937. According to the 2008 annual IUCN report, there were 16,928 animal and plant species that are threatened of extinction and the list keeps increasing every year. Despite the indiscriminate exploitation of nature by some people, there are a handful of those that are relentlessly working to reverse the detrimental effects of human activities on theenvironment.

The World Wildlife Fund, European Environment Agency and the National Geographic are some organizations that run programs for the preservation of nature and educate and inspire people to conserve all life forms be it flora or fauna. Now that we know how do humans affect the environment, let us not sit back leaving all the responsibility of conserving our planet on a handful of people. Each one of us can make a valuable contribution towards preserving our environment. Let us do our own bit, for, in the well-being of the environment lies the key to our survival.

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