Causes and Effects of Land Pollution

Land pollution is one of the gravest kinds of pollution. I say so because we do not realize when and how we pollute land, due to the different things that we do and the decisions we take. We know when our actions cause water pollution, for we can see for ourselves the quality of water worsening. Similarly, noise, light, and visual pollution, can all be monitored, because we can all see or sense these kinds of pollution. However, land pollution is a hard one to get, since we do not understand and cannot comprehend what actions cause the destruction of land.What is Land Pollution?When the anthropogenic effects of development adversely affect land (especially in terms of quality of land), it can be called land pollution. This brings us to an important question - what counts as an adverse effect? The answer is simple - anything that reduces the productivity and potential use of a piece of land. Here, 'productivity and potential' refers to prospective uses of a land that can be used for any purpose, for which land is used; including infrastructure, housing, services, agriculture, forestry, etc. If any of the effects of human development reduce the potentiality of a piece of land to be used for any good purpose, it amounts to land pollution.Causes of Land Pollution1. Degenerative Actions encompass a lot of human actions, including - deforestation, overuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, desertification, mining, inefficient and/or inadequate waste treatment, landfill, litter, etc. Many of these are unavoidable, however, the severity of these actions in terms of the effects they have on the land, can be reduced by taking appropriate and corrective measures. For example, the amount of litter produced can be remarkably reduced if we avoid the use of plastic. The key here is to conduct a thorough EIA - Environmental Impact Assessment.2. Misuse of Land mainly refers to felling of trees to clear land for agriculture, as well as processes like desertification and land conversion. Desertification is when anthropogenic effects of human development and/or other actions, converts a piece of (essentially) fertile land into desert-land or a dryland. Isn't that a scary thought? Land once converted to a desert-land can never be reclaimed by any amount of corrective measures. This is also a serious issue because it does not only affect land, but also the overall biodiversity of a place, especially when land is cleared for agriculture. A lot of indigenous flora and fauna is lost in the process.3. Inefficient Use of Land - Surprised? Does inefficient use of land count as a cause of land pollution? Yes. Why? Due to the consequences of inefficient use of land. Inefficient use of land as such is not going to cause land pollution. However, inefficient use of land amounts to wastage, and hence shortage of land area; and it is precisely during such conditions that man has to resort to measures such as deforestation and the like, to meet his needs. It is an important, albeit an indirect cause of land pollution that is often largely neglected.4. Soil Pollution is when the topmost 'soil' layer of land is destroyed or polluted. Soil pollution is again another cause of land pollution that affects not only the land, but also a lot of other things such as forests of a region, productivity of land in terms of agriculture, grazing etc. Soil pollution is also caused by wrong agricultural practices, such as overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This causes non-biodegradable chemicals to enter and accumulate in the food chain - a process often referred to as biomagnification of a pollutant.5. Land Conversion is the process whereby a piece of land is converted from its indigenous form, to one that is used for either agriculture or infrastructure. Land conversion is especially a growing problem that we possibly do not have a good - or a good enough - solution for. The best way to avoid land conversion is to make efficient use of available land. Using a piece of land to its maximum potential is the key to eliminating many of the causes of land pollution.Other key causes of land pollution include - urbanization, improper waste disposal, industrial activities, nuclear research, chemicals released by all sorts of heavy industries, coal-fired power plants, and metal-producing industries, to name a few.Effects of Land Pollution1. Effects on Climate
Land pollution can affect the general environment of the Earth. Land pollution leads to a depletion in forest covers. This is in turn going to affect the amount of rain. Less rains mean lesser vegetation. The effect of all different kinds of pollution will eventually lead to problems like acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and global warming. All of these problems have already begun, and need to be curbed before the situation runs out of control.2. Extinction of Species
One of the major causes of concern is the extinction of species. Species are pushed towards endangerment and extinction primarily by two processes. Habitat fragmentation is the separating of the natural habitat of an organism, caused primarily by urban sprawl. In the last 500 years, the planet has lost about 869 species of plants and animals, because of human negligence that forced them into extinction. Habitat destruction, on the other hand, is when land clearing adversely affects animals, such that their natural habitat is lost. Both these actions can cause some species to go extinct and others to become invasive.3. Biomagnification
Biomagnification is the process in which certain non-biodegradable substances continue to accumulating in the food chain (in one or more species). The most common example is of methylmercury in fish and mercury in eagles. Not only does biomagnification put these particular species at risk, but all the species above and below it at risk, ultimately affecting the food pyramid.4. Effects on Biodiversity
The extinction of certain species and biomagnification, are going to overthrow the balance of nature significantly. The main reason for this is disturbance created in the food chain. To give you a very simple example - on account of biomagnification of mercury in eagles, they might go extinct in the subsequent years. However, we know eagles prey on snakes, thereby increasing the number of this reptile if eagles were to go extinct.As you may have realized, land pollution is indeed going to affect many things than we previously thought it couldn't. Hence, I leave you with some corrective measure you can take on a personal level to reduce land pollution.
Encourage organic farming - buy organic food whenever possible.
Proper garbage disposal - separate your garbage before you give it to the garbage collector; and strictly say NO to plastic.
Encourage recycling - buy recycled products, notebooks, paper, etc.
Restrict the use of herbicides and pesticides - they are not only used in farms, but in your own backyard as well.
If we reduce our contribution to garbage and litter, we can significantly reduce thee problems of land pollution and probably curb it entirely in the near future. Also, do realize this isn't only about land pollution; it is about all kinds of pollution. We need to take steps to prevent damaging our planet. We have no other place to go.