Addition of undesirable and harmful substances to the upper layers of soil is termed as soil pollution. Soil being one of the most invaluable natural resources is the reservoir of most of our food, minerals and elemental requirements.
Therefore contamination of this resource can heavily jeopardize the overall existence and daily essentials for humans, animals and plants.
The causes and sources of soil pollution are diverse and often difficult to narrow down. The biggest source is the electronic and chemical waste drawn from different and sectoral industries.
These industries produce some very harmful and poisonous chemicals, metallic compounds, heavy metals, radioactive agents etc that can create havoc with the fertility of the topsoil. Next on the list is the domestic refuse from various households.
This also contains various biological, organic and inorganic wastes which are heaped on to the soil surrounding such settlements. The decaying and festering garbage dumps and solid waste collection not only breeds various diseases but also create havoc in terms of odour and aesthetics.
Other installations and utilizes like hospitals, laboratories, power plants etc also have their specific forms of refuse and waste that add to the above-mentioned pollutants. Use of excessive fertilizers, insecticides etc, in agriculture is another grave source of soil pollution.
Contamination of underground water through percolation of soil pollutants is another knock-on effect of soil pollution. It also causes disruption of various important physicochemical and biological functions and processes of like nitrogen fixation, decomposition of natural waste etc as the overall balance between various life forms are destroyed.
The most manifest effect of soil pollution is the destruction of soil fertility i.e. its ability to produce food and grains. Not just the quantity but even the composition of the food harvested is compromised due to the contamination of the soil.
This alters the composition of the soil both physically and chemically which results in the disintegration of its biological make i.e. microbial, floral and faunal.
Depletion of fertility is also caused by soil erosion which is usually accompanied by its pollution. The presence of toxic chemicals in the soil is transferred into animal and human bodies through dietary food grains and other plant products.
Use of natural biological fertilizers like urea over chemical options is also important. Since, plants and their root systems act as natural soil purification systems, more and more trees etc need to be seeded and maintained.
Treatment of toxic industrial waste before being released into the environment is paramount and directly impacts the natural health of soil surrounding them.
Reduction of chemicals, recycling and reuse of the various products is also needed. Innovative techniques like bio-compositing, e-diesel production, biogas generators etc. should be leveraged to naturally decompose the solid, agricultural and domestic waste.
The banning of plastic bags etc and overall reeducation of habits and hygiene would also aid our fight against soil pollution. These also measures need to be backed by statutory protection, regulatory oversight and strict enforcement to see the lasting and significant improvements in terms of soil health and fertility.