Environment glossary


Solid waste glossary


Q. What is toxic trace heavy metal Pollution ? Plese provide the list of those metal, source where that can be found. How it affect on human health?

A. US Geological Survey identifies 31 trace elements (metals) supposedly toxic to human beings and other flora and fauna and monitors their levels in National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA). Trace elements are inorganic chemicals usually occuring in small amounts in nature.

Parameter name
Aluminum, Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Beryllium, Boron, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Lead, Lithium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Selenium, Silver, Strontium, Thallium, Uranium, natural, Vanadium, Zinc

The drinking water standard for some these chemicals as applicable in US and enforced by USEPA is given in this site http://www.epa.gov/safewater/mcl.html#inorganic.


I would like to know the importance of water conservation. also more information on the topic 'water conservation and management'

A. Growth process and the expansion of economic activities inevitably lead to increasing demands for water for diverse purposes: domestic, industrial, agriculture, hydropower, thermal-power, recreation etc. Consequently, water, which is already a scarce resource, will become even scarcer in future. This underscores the need for the utmost efficiency in water utilization and a public awareness of the importance of its conservation.

Approaches towards water resource management should include the increasing resource availability by adopting practices like rainwater harvesting, participatory approach in development and management of water resources, encouraging judicious use of water etc.

There is the need to implement measures to protect and conserve water resources by recycling, reusing by adopting better technological options for water and waste water treatment, adopting traditional water conservation practices like rainwater harvesting, including roof top rainwater harvesting, using rainwater to recharge groundwater, and strategies for the rejuvenation of existing water systems.

Rainwater harvesting is the process to capture and store rainfall to prevent its runoff, evaporation and seepage for its efficient utilization and conservation in a watershed. Rainwater harvesting is an effective tool to utilize a large amount of high quality water, which otherwise goes waste to sea. Harvesting systems not only provide water in times of distress, but also continuously recharge the ground water thus making sure that the water table does not go down too much.

The development and adaptation of improved technologies for water/waste water treatment, Preparation of integrated water management schemes including development of surface and groundwater resources aimed at harnessing available resources effectively for a sustainable future using water shed management and through rainwater harvesting and ground water recharging should be adopted.

Watershed management should include survey of natural resources; prevention and control of resource degradation and depletion; conservation; regeneration of degraded resource; and creation of environmental awareness strengthened by socio-economic studies, and legislative and regulatory measures.

Management of the water resources for diverse uses should incorporate a participatory approach involving users, planners, and policy makers at all levels.


Q. What is meant by biotechnology?

A. Three definitions of Biotechnology are given below along with their reference/source.

Bi.o.tech.nol.o.gy (bi´o tek´näl´ o je) n. [Gr. < bios, life] [Gr. technologia, systematic treatment: see TECHNIC & LOGY]

1. Biotechnology is a set of powerful tools that employ living organisms (or part of organisms) to make or modify products, improve plants or animals, or develop microorganisms for specific uses.
2. Early biotechnology includes traditional animal and plant breeding techniques, and the use of yeast in making bread, beer, wine and cheese.
3. Modern biotechnology includes the industrial use of recombinant DNA, cell fusion, novel bioprocessing techniques, and bioremediation."
Source: National Science and Technology Council, July 1995, Washington biotechnology and medical technology online; http://www.wabio.com/industry/definition_biotech.htm

Biotechnology can be broadly defined as "using living organisms or their products for commercial purposes." As such, biotechnology has been practiced by human society since the beginning of recorded history in such activities as baking bread, brewing alcoholic beverages, or breeding food crops or domestic animals.

A narrower and more specific definition of biotechnology is "the commercial application of living organisms or their products, which involves the deliberate manipulation of their DNA molecules". This definition implies a set of laboratory techniques developed within the last 20 years that have been responsible for the tremendous scientific and commercial interest in biotechnology, the founding of many new companies, and the redirection of research efforts and financial resources among established companies and universities. These laboratory techniques provide scientists with a spectacular vision of the design and function of living organisms, and provide technologists in many fields with the tools to implement exciting commercial applications.
Source: Biotechnology Information Series (Bio-1) North Central Regional Extension Publication Iowa State University - University Extension; http://www.nal.usda.gov/bic/Education_res/iastate.info/bio1.html

“Biotechnology is the integration of natural sciences and engineering sciences in order to achieve the application of organisms, cells, parts thereof and molecular analogues for products and services.”
Source: European Federation of Biotechnology, 1989; http://www.uni-hohenheim.de/biotech/eng/def_biotech.htm



Q. Can businesses be 'Green'?

A. Ofcourse it is possible for businesses being green. Going 'green' implies reduced pollution through efficient and cleaner production process. All this results in resource conservation, that is, decreased specific raw material consumption, decreased specific water consumption, decreased specific energy consumption which translates into reduced cost of production. Lowered costs of production also improves the competitiveness of the company. 

Through the TERI Corporate Environment Awards conferred to Indian corporates annually, this is what is being highlighted that 'Green makes good business sense'. Investments made in improving the production process to reduce pollution and increase efficiency almost alwa
ys breaks even after a certain period and then onwards registers an net money earned.


Q. What are property rights?

A. Property is that which belongs exclusively to one. It is used to denote everything, which is the subject of ownership. Incorporeal Property can be classified into- jura in re aliena (includes all encumbrances such as leases, mortgages etc) and Jura in re propria (like immaterial things such as patents, Copyrights, trade marks etc). The latter rights are the rights, which are derived from human labour with intellectual appreciation and mental application, and are thus nomenclatured as Intellectual Property Rights. It is a principle of law that, what a man produces, is his, and an immaterial intellectual product is as valuable as any other material product is!

In India we have a strong and modern Intellectual Property Rights Act. The term “Intellectual Property has come to be internationally recognized as covering patents, industrial designs, copyrights, trade marks, know-how and confidential information. As regards copyright, India is a member of both Berne and Universal Copyright Conventions. Intellectual Property Rights are enforced by an action of infringement of those rights before a District or High Court.

Incase of copyright and trademark criminal prosecution is also available.


Q. Is global warming from the increased greenhouse effect caused, at least, partly by humans and that is it a serious promblem or that it has been greatly exaggerated?

A. Climate change is a reality and its impacts are already being felt the world over. Tempearture in this century has increased by 0.6 degree C over the last century.

There are other indicators as well which support this - such as melting of glaciers and extreme events which have increased in intensity as well as in frequency.

There is ample evidence suggesting human causes of climate change. The third assessment of the IPCC has stated that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human causes mainly fossil fuel burning.


Q. How are nitric acids used to make fertilizer?

A. Nitric acid is used in the manufacture of fertilizers.
The Haber process is used to manufacture ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen. Ammonia is then used to make nitric acid, which reacts with ammonia to create ammonium nitrate, which is a very important fertilizer. 
The raw materials for creating ammonia are air for nitrogen (N2(g)) and methane and water for hydrogen (H2(g)).

Q.Could you tell me some man made water sources and some natural water sources.

A. Man made water sources are like small dams, reservoir and big hydropower projects that store the running river water. This stored water is used for irrigation/ agriculture through man made canals (channels) and also for drinking purposes after treatment. Some of these dams are Bhakra Nagal Dam on river Sutlej, Renuka dam in Himachal Pradesh, Narmada dam etc. Also rain water harvesting is another way of storing rain water that is man made.
Natural water sources are like ponds, lakes, rivers, groundwater etc where rain water is naturally transformed into either surface water or ground water depending on the quality of land and soil on which rain falls.
Also in some of the countries like Europe many dead volcanic mountains are able to store a lot of fresh water (from the rain) in their mouths (crest) that is used for drinking purposes after treatment.

Q. How to control air pollution? Especially the smoke from industries.

A. By increasing the energy efficiency, fuel consumption can be minimized and the emissions can be reduced. Other ways are by installing pollution control devices such as electro static precipitators that can control particulate matter. Catalytic control equipments can reduce CO emission.

Q. What is the effect of sulpher and sulphate on fishes in marine life?

and may enter the food chain by being absorbed by fish, not only affecting the fish but ultimately ending up in the human food. Acids and Alkalis e.g sulphuric, hydrochloric acids are known to change the pH of water resulting in alterations in the pattern of vegetation leading to changes in the whole ecosystem.Inorganic salts like sulphides and sulphites, poison the water, thus making it useless for any kind of consumption.

Q. How do we capture energy from the Sun?

A. There are two methods of harnessing energy from the sun, one is the thermal route and the other is Photovoltaics. The first one deals with maximising the capture of heat from the sun and the second one deals with a semiconductor effect by which a semiconductor material such as the silicon, converts the light of sun into electricity.

Q. I like to know more about solar photovoltaic cells. I am very much interested to manufacture SPV. Where can I get the project report and raw materials details?

A. Solar cells is a subject in itself, dealing with semiconductor physics. The theory is well described in many good books, you can refer to "Solar cells", by Martin Green.

As far as manufacturing is concerned, there is no off-the-shelf project report that is available for setting up the facility. You can approach a few solar cell and module manufacturers to assess what is the demand for solar cells before you plan further about manufacturing set-up.

Q. What are the conventional sources and the non-conventional sources of energy?

A. As the name suggests, `conventional energy sources' are those that we have been using conventionally for long time, e.g. coal, petrol, and gas etc.

As against this, the `non-conventional sources' are those which are still not commonly used. Some of the non-conventional sources of energy are solar, wind, & biomass energy; tidal & wave energy; hydrogen & ethanol etc. Also, most of the non-conventional energy sources also happen to be renewable in nature (whereas conventional energy sources have a certain limited availability only).

Q. I need to know as much as I can about acid rain, because I am doing a project on it. So please tell me as much as you can about acid rain.

A. The Acidification Phenomenon:

Acid rain is the product of chemical reactions between airborne pollution (sulfur and nitrogen compounds) and atmospheric water and oxygen. Once in the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with other chemicals to form sulfuric and nitric acids. These substances can stay in the atmosphere for several days and travel hundreds or thousands of kilometers before falling back to the earth’s surface as acid rain. This process is more accurately termed “acid deposition, “because acidity can travel to the earth’s surface in many forms: rain, snow, fog, dew, particles (dry deposition), or aerosol gases.

Although sulfur and nitrogen compounds can be generated by biological processes such as natural soil decomposition or other natural sources such as volcanoes, most sulfur emitted into the atmosphere results from anthropogenic (of human origin) activities. Coal-and-oil-fired power-generating stations, domestic heating, biomass burning, various industrial processes, and transportation are all important sources of emissions that cause acid deposition.

The documented effects of air pollution and acid deposition include the following:

- Major contributions to forest decline, possibly in complex interactions with natural stresses
- Release of toxic metals such as aluminium that can damage soils, vegetation, and surface waters
- Direct damage to crops and vegetation by high air concentrations of pollutants or indirect damage through chemical changes in the soil
- Damage to acquatic resources and their ecosystems
- Increased rate of erosion of monuments, buildings, and other cultural and commercial resources
- Direct, adverse effects on human health, especially for sensitive populations with respiratory or cardiovascular problems.

Emissions from large point sources of sulfur emissions such as power plants were once considered a local problem. As awareness of the harmful effects of these pollutants grew, however, new facilities were built with taller smokestacks, designed to spread the pollution over a larger area. This wide dispersion makes the long-range acidification problem and its possible solutions a national and regional concern.

Source: RAINS-Asia, Anassessment model for acid deposition in Asia, by R J Downing, R Ramankutty, and J Shah, The World Bank, Washington D.C.

Q. What are household wastes and why are they dangerous?

A. Household wastes are the waste from kitchen - food left overs; packaging material; empty glass bottles; tin cans etc.; used batteries; paper etc. Some of these - as batteries, expried medicines, broken glass etc. are hazardous in nature and they can harm the ragpickers on being mixed with the domestic waste. It is advisable to separate these at source and then dispose.

Q. Can polymer modified bituminous membranes be used inside the water storage
tanks, without a topping protection, to areest leakage? Is it any way harmful? Will you please explain?

A. Chemical and physical properties of the polymer modified bitumen would decide the application. This has been used as liner for hazardous waste landfills. For its application as liner for water reservoirs, one needs to check its solubility in water performing leach test and its suitability under different temperature conditions. 

Q. What is the difference between weather and climate? 

A. Both "weather" and "climate" refer essentially to the same things: temperature, rainfall, snowfall, etc. But the climate of a place is basically the long-term average of its weather conditions. e.g. we say that India is a hot country, even though different parts of it are hot and cold, dry or rainy, at different times during the year.

Broadly speaking, climate can be divided into tropical, temperate, or frigid, with local climate being determined by the geography, terrain, presence of water bodies, etc. Weather itself changes from day to day, whereas the climate of a place tells you what kind of weather conditions would normally be expected to prevail there.

The standard practice is to average the recorded weather information for the last 30 years to calculate the climate "normals", e.g. for 1961-90.

For more information take a look at the site of the World Meteorological Organisationwww.wmo.ch - they have a summary of the global climate in 2001, as well as information about climate change.

Hope this helps.


Q. What stages does a landfill go through to completly decompose everyday garbage?

A. A landfill goes through Anaerobic cycle followed by the aerobic cycle to completely decompose everyday garbage.


Q. What are the major microbes(with scientific name) degrading pesticides in soil?

A. There are many bacterial species which biodegrade Pesticides

Some of known species are

Pseudomonas sp.
Burkholdia cepacia
Arthobacter Sp
Acinetobacter calcoaceticus
Mycobacterium Sp
Sphingomonas Sp

If you need detail please let us know.

Q. Do you know anything about Environmental Law?? Can you please tell me about it?

A. Environmental law is a regulatory and institutional framework for the conservation and protection of the environment. This framework would contain a set of laws for prevention of water and air pollution , protection of forests and proper utilisation of natural resources. The laws provide for adequate punishments if the environment is caused any harm. They also identify the agencies responsible for implementation of the laws.

Q. Why do we need to stop using non-renewable energy?

A. This can be better understood by taking the analogy of a cake.

The non-renewables are like a cake. It gets reduced if you eat a piece of it. There will be no cake left after you have eaten it all.

Similarly, for example, there will be no non-renewable left such as petrol (gas) to drive your car if it is used indiscriminately. So is the case with others like coal and other petroleum products, collectively called the 'fossil fuels'.

Renewables are like the light from the sun. It will always be there for a long long time.


Q. I want to know about different laws & legislations laid by the Ministry of Environment & Forest and the Pollution Control Board for different categories of industry in detail. Or if you could tell me some web sites.

A. I would advise the following:

The website of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), http://www.envfor.nic.in/, is indeed the best place to start a query.

The left column of the homepage of the MoEF site contains a link entitled "Legislations", which will allow you to access the texts of Indian environmental legislation (and the notifications and rules made thereunder) related to water pollution, air pollution, forest conservation, environmental protection, hazardous substances, noise pollution, ozone layer depletion, biodiversity, etc.

Rules taken pursuant to certain environmental legislation will contain more specific standards and parameters, for example, the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 lists emission or discharge standards of environmental pollutants for numerous industries.  Similarly, the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989 lists the various industrial processes and waste streams targeted by the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

You may also want to click on the "Annual Report" link of the MoEF site.  The Annual Report 2001 contains information on a wide range of topics, including the latest development of industry specific or general emission standards, the status of pollution control in 17 categories of identified highly polluting industries, amendments that have been made to existing legislation or any pending bills in parliament.

For more technical information or reports on specific environmental issues you may want to consult the site of the Central Pollution Control Board: http://envfor.nic.in/cpcb/

I hope this will help you further!


Q. How industrial effluents effect the soil and crop yield and by what methods we can analyse/ determine such effects?

A. Let us first understand that there is no definite dictionary meaning for soil yield, although soil productivity and soil fertility are in vogue. Depending on the type of industrial affluent, the yields of crops in general decline. However, there are very few studies done on this topic, although it is one of prime areas of research in many developing countries.

To analyze the impact, there are many methods adopted by Scientists across the globe. You may refer to a study done by Imperial College, London (Please check the web-site) on "Impacts of Air pollution on agricultural crops in India". Although, this study was more to do with impact of air pollution due to industrial and transport sector on crop yields and productivity, the methodology adopted is worth looking at.

Q. What is a filter on a car like and could you give me some background information on it. Also please tell me how often are they used in present times?

A. The proponent has not specified , the location of " Filter ' in a car. Hence I am trying to provide some basic information on " Filters"

1. Filters can be on 'fuel line ' in a car running on gasoline. These filters are basically made up of ' Felt ' material capable of arresting suspended impurities.

2. Filters can be on " Air Intake ' line . These filters have a mesh & a cloth lining to control the suspended particulate matter ( SPM) , basically dust in the air

3. Filters are now in use at the 'tail pipe' of cars using " Diesel " as fuel. These filters helps in arresting the particulate matter generated as a result of fuel combustion.

For reference , a photograph of a particulate filter in use in ' Diesel ' buses using Ultra Low Sulpher Diesel (< 50 ppm sulphur ) is enclosed.

I hope this is the information, proponent was looking for ! or else, please get back for more specifics.


Q. How does water pollution effect animals?

A. Three quarters of the world's surface is water, but 99% of that is unusable to us because it is found in oceans and glaciers. Only 1% of the Earth's water is usable. A small portion of the water we use comes from rivers, streams and lakes. Most of it is ground water from cracks and crevices beneath the Earth's surface.

Around the world, drinking water is being contaminated by agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, animal waste, mining, leaking garbage dumps, industrial and household chemicals, acid rain, sewage and oil or chemical spills from factories. If we do not learn to care for the small percentage of the Earth's water that is usable, we may come to appreciate this natural treasure the hard way.

For example, in Oklahoma oil leaked to a nearby creek, where it formed a sticky layer on the water's surface and coated the banks. The oil's toxicity rendered the water uninhabitable to most forms of life, and it is no longer fit for animals to drink."

(J.W. Maurits la Riviere, Scientific American magazine)

Contaminants can be found in every body of water in the world, including our tap water. Many cities add chlorine and other chemicals to their water to make it "safe" for drinking.

Some people have decided that the solution to our water problems is to drink bottled water, although bottled water costs 900 times more money than tap water

While buying bottled water may be a good idea, it is far from the solution to this problem. Many people can't afford it, and animals don't even have the choice.

Q. What are vegetable market wastes? What are the problems faced by the residents of surrounding area due to vegetable market garbage?

A. Vegetable market waste is the left overs from the vegetables sold, the rotten vegetables, the vegetable peels and leaves etc. which are all organic waste which decay very soon. Decaying causes bad odour, inviting mosquitoes, insects, flies and other microorganisms which create unhygienic conditions. In addition street dogs, pigs, cattle etc. also can encroach into the area which could cause disturbances in the movement of the local residents. Proper timely collection and disposal of this waste is important.

Q. How can we know if the water is contaminated?

A. Depending on the type of organic matter and micro organisms, there are different ways to purify water. In a treatment plant micro organisms get trapped during different treatment processes like filteration, chlorination. In homes, micro-organisms are usually killed by boiling, using Potassium Permegnate in wells, using chemicals to clean water tanks and with techniques like filteration, adsorbtion and UV disinfection.


Q. Can the smoke contaminate fruit seriously?

A. Smoke can affect the plants and fruit yield. but the contamination can occur through many ways (like water intake, soil contamination etc)


Q. Are the nuclear power plants, the most polluting sources of energy?

A. We can't say the nuclear power plants are the most polluting one. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. In Nuclear power plants if there is any accident or leakage it may lead to radioactive pollution which is harmful and dangerous. Other wise in normal operation it is not highly polluting.



Q. What is air pollution and why don't people do anything about it to make it better???

A. Air pollution is related with combustion and energy consumption. With increased industrial activities and vehicular movement and modernization, the energy consumption increases which increases fuel consumption and increase the air pollution. One way of controlling air pollution is by decreasing the energy consumption, which would need people's cooperation and the other way, is through cleaner technology and laws.

Q. What can I do with the used batteries?

A. Used Batteries (Dry cells) are carbon electrodes with metal casing above. They also have a lead casing inside. These should be given back to the suppliers as they cannot be recycled at the household level. The carbon powder inside could then be reused. The metallic casing and the metallic tip should also be recycled.


Q. How much time do you need to recycle a battery?

A. Used Batteries (Dry cells) are carbon electrodes with metal casing above. They also have a lead casing inside. These should be given back to the suppliers as cannot be recycled at the household level. The carbon powder inside should then be reused. The metallic casing and the metallic tip should also be recycled.


Q.Could you please let me know what is MULLITE and MUSCOVITE. Are they fossil fuels or a substance found in coal after it is burnt. 

A. None of these are fossil fuels but coal ash has somewhat similar chemical composition to that of Mullite and Muscovite to the extent that both are aluminum silicates.

Mullite is a natural refractory mineral with chemical composition of 3Al2O3·2SiO2.  It was first found in 1924 at SEABANK VILLA, ILE DE MULL, ECOSSE and hence the name. It is also produced by calcining Kyanite, Andalusite, and Sillimanite at high temperatures (around 1,350° C to 1,380° C), these minerals are converted to mullite, and silica, SiO2, which are refractory materials.Kyanite, Andalusite, and Sillimanite are anhydrous aluminum silicate minerals that have the same chemical formula, Al2SiO5, but differ in crystal structure and physical properties. Synthetic mullite is produced by heating mixtures of alumina and silica or bauxite and kaolin at around 1,550° C to 2,000° C. Refractories are heat-resistant materials used in high-temperature applications such as furnaces, boilers, ladles, and kilns, in the metallurgical, glass, chemical, cement, and other industries. Sometimes, kaoline and other refractory minerals are found in the geological formations that contain coal seams.

Muscovite is a type of mica, the other being Phlogopite mica. Mica is a generic term applied to a group of complex aluminum silicate minerals (KAl2(AlSi3O10) (F, OH)2, Potassium aluminum silicate hydroxide fluoride ) having a sheet or plate like structure with different composition and physical properties. When split into thin films, they remain tough and elastic even at high temperature. Mica possesses some of the most outstanding combinations of chemical, physical, electrical, thermal and mechanical properties, which are not found in any other product. Mica is known for the unique combination of great dielectric strength, uniform dielectric constant and capacitance stability, low power loss (high Q factor), high electrical resistivity and low temperature coefficient and capacitance. It is noted for its resistance to arc and corona discharge with no permanent damage. It is fire proof, infusible, incombustible and non- flammable and can resist temperatures of 600-C to 900-C. It has low heat conductivity, excellent thermal stability and may be exposed to high temperatures without noticeable ill effect.
Mica finds its use in many industrial applications mostly related to heat and electricity because of its properties. Mica deposits are found in India, Africa, Brazil and China.Muscovite is found associated with many other minerals including kynite.


Q. I'm doing a project about volcanoes, where can I find a web site about the volcano, Krakotoa?

A. Below mentioned sites provide information on volcano in Krakatau, Indonesia.



Q. Why are fossil fuels non-renewable? Please answer in detail.

AFossils fuels can not be produced by us. They are nature's gift to us formed by natural processes and the materials used came from nature itself.

The fossil fuels, as the name signifies, are formed from remains of old (millions of years old) plants and animals. (Fossils are remains of ancient plants and animals). 

For example, the coal that is burnt in the powerhouses to generate electricity was formed from vast amount of plants which were burried 360 million to 290 millions (known as Carboniferous Period in the history of our planet) of years ago and underwent certain changes in temperature and pressure inside the earth's crust.

These fuels are termed non renewable because it will take millions of years for the plants burried today to get converted into fuel. Also, the plants get converted into coal by a very complex process of movement in the earths crust which provides necessary pressure and temperature, which may not be available each time. 

Once exhausted, we will be left with no fossil fuels and hence the term 'non renewable'. Wind and solar energy is termed as 'renewable' because their use by us will not exhaust them.


Q. Where can I find websites in English about pollution in Mexico City ?

A. If you want to know about Air pollution in Mexico, then visit these web sites.

   1) http://environment.about.com/library/weekly/blairpol3.htm?terms=Mexico+pollution
   2) http://www-eaps.mit.edu/megacities/Workshop_99/mexico.html

It is very difficult to get information related to other kinds of pollution in Mexico City in English, as most of the web sites are in the Spanish language.


Q. How does the pollution that creates acid rain affect people?

A. The precursor gases for acid rain are mainly Sulphur dioxide and Nitrogen dioxide. Both these gases have health impacts as listed below:

1. Sulphur dioxide: It is highly soluble and consequently is adsorbed in the moist passages of upper respiratory system. SO2 has a number of adverse health effects, and is linked to bronchitis, tracheitis and respiratory problems. SO2 causes significant broncho-constriction in asthamatics at relatively low concentrations. Generally speaking, humans chronically exposed to SO2, have higher incidences of the following diseases:Coughs, shortness of breath, bronchitis, fatigue, and colds of long duration.

2. Nitrogen dioxide: Nitrogen dioxide is a respiratory irritant, and long-term exposure can lead to irreversible lung damage. It can cause chest tightness, burning of the eyes and headaches, particularly in asthmatics and bronchitics. Repeated exposure to intermittently high concentrations of NO2 is more toxic than more regular exposure to lower-level concentrations.

In addition to the health impacts, the environmental effects of these gases include acidification of soils, lakes and rivers; and damage to plants,crops and buildings.

Overall, the documented effects of air pollution and acid deposition include the following:

- Major contributions to forest decline, possibly in complex interactions with natural stresses
- Release of toxic metals such as aluminum that can damage soils, vegetation, and surface waters
- Direct damage to crops and vegetation by high air concentrations of pollutants or indirect damage through chemical changes in the soil 
- Damage to aquatic resources and their ecosystems
- Increased rate of erosion of monuments, buildings, and other cultural and commercial resources
- Direct, adverse effects on human health, especially for sensitive populations with respiratory or cardiovascular problems.


Q. What would be the impact of the major natural environmental problem confronting the Asia-Pacific region on international business?

A. The general impact on business would be two fold. One is a reduction or deterioration in the environmental resource base on which many industries in the Asia-Pacific region are based, for example forestry industries. Secondly, governments have in place legislation and/or market based instruments that seek to mitigate environmental degradation. For example, taxes on polluting industries could be imposed. These could have an impact on the competitiveness of business in the region.

Q. What are the critical levels of SO2 for acid rain?

A. The critical levels of SO2 for acid rain will depend not only on the concentration of SO2and related acidic compounds but also on the buffering capacity of the ecosystem. For example, in NW India, where there are lot of alkaline dust particles present in the atmosphere, the chances of acid rain will be less than in NE India where the soils are leached due to heavy rainfall. One has to look in an integrated manner that takes into account the concentration of SO2 as well as the buffering capacity of ecosystem on which the impact is being studied.

If you desire, you could have a look at my recent article on "Acid rain - case study for India" that appeared in Indian J of Env. Protection, Vol 20, No. 12, Dec. 2000.

Q. What is micro hydel power? Can you give me a list of micro hydel power plants situated in India?

A. Micro hydel or Micro Hydro Power as the name suggests is the small or low power version of Hydro power. Examples of Large Hydro Power are Bhakra Nangal dam etc. which have power generating capacities in excess of 25 MW. While the large hydro power projects can be installed only on rivers (with large volumes of water flow), small /mini or micro hydro power plants can be installed on to small streams, canals, etc. Such systems are most popular in hilly regions where several such small and perennial streams can be found. The general power generating capacities of different categories of hydro power are as follows:

Micro hydro power : upto 1 MW
Mini Hydro power : from 1 MW till 3 MW 
Small hydro power : from 3 MW till 25 MW

The list of Micro hydro power projects in the country is large and can be had from either the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) GOI, or from the respective states. The total number of small hydro power projects installed (up to 25 MW capacity) in different states in the country is 1341.05 MW from 387 power projects. Further work is going on in 170 projects with a power generating capacity of 498.28 MW.

Q. How does nature help to clean air pollution?

A. Nature helps to cleanse the air of pollutants in many different ways. One of the ways in which nature helps is through the dilution of  pollutants. 
For example rain helps in precipitation of pollutants specially Particulate or dust. you can clearly see the difference in the air after a shower - the sky looks clearer and the air more fresh. 
If the wind speed is high and turbulent the pollutants get diluted and will be less effective.
Plants absorb carbon dioxide which is a major green house gas during photosynthesis and release oxygen.

Q. How do pesticides and other chemicals build up in the bodies of fish and other wild animals?

A. Pesticides enter the bodies of fish and other animals through various sources such as food, water etc. This gets accumulated in the body tissues. Natural mechanism such as excretion and perspiration  cannot easily remove these toxic substances from the body.

Q. In what ways do science and scientist help control pollution?

A. Science and scientist can help control pollution by designing machines that will release minimum pollutants into the air; utilising energy sources that are less polluting; devising methods that are eco-friendly and user friendly.

In case of combustion, incomplete combustion due to lack of supply of air releases air pollutants. By designing proper combustion devices the release of air pollutants can be minimized.

Scientists have developed pollutant treatment devices such as effluent treatment plant, air pollution control devices that have helped in treating the effluent or emission.

Q. Can hydrogen gas replace methane for cooking and heating? Please tell me the reasons for why or why not.

A. Theoretically/ideally it can be possible if the burner is specially design for hydrogen fuel. But hydrogen is not being used for cooking fuel: as it is very explosive in nature due to its very fast (high flame speed) combustion properties. Its flame travels very fast on ignition and so is prone to explosion.

Q. What is the impact of the major natural environmental problem confronting the Asia-Pacific region on international business ?

A.The general impact on business would be two fold. One is a reduction or deterioration in the environmental resource base on which many industries in the Asia-Pacific region are based, for example forestry industries. Secondly, governments have in place legislation and/or market based instruments that seek to mitigate environmental degradation. For example, taxes on polluting industries could be imposed. These could have an impact on the competitiveness of business in the region.

Q. Which U.S. city has the worst air pollution?

A. USA has an extensive air quality monitoring system. The worst polluted city may differ for different pollutants. You can visit this site for detailed air quality data for USAhttp://www.epa.gov/airnow/  


Q. What insulation materials for wall construction are available in India? (fiberglass batt insulation/ polystyerene- extruded or expanded). What is the cost per square foot?

A. Expanded polystyrene insulation is available in India and the cost with the following specifications is as follows:

Expanded polystyrene insulation 25 mm thick on walls i/e plaster lugs, chicken wire mesh covering and 1:4 coarse send plaster coating, 18 mm thick.

Providing and fixing 25 mm thick expanded polystyrene panels of approved brand and manufacture(typically with 100 X 50 cm panels but cut if required with blade) by staking them between projecting string courses and on plastic lugs chaised and set into the masonry with cement mortar of 1:2 mix (1 cement : 2 course sand) at a spacing of about 25 cm X 50 cm, and after staking the panels, covering them with hexagonal galvanised mild steel wire gauze(chicken wire mesh) staked on wires into masonry and plastering while covering and encasing the mesh with cement plaster of mix 1:4(1 cement : 4 coarse send) 18 mm thick. Rate/sqm :  Rs.135/- (1997 rate)


Q. What are the long term effects on children of long-term, sustained, direct exposure (inhaled and kept in open barrels in yard) to the chemicals BHC, and Malathyon?

A. Constant exposure of any pesticide is harmful. BHC being fat soluble remains bioconcentrated in the adipose tissue and thus is harmful.


Q. Can you name the organisms that purify waste water?

A. There are 3 kingdoms of micro organisms found in wastewater-

1. Animals- Rotifers, Crustaceans
2. Plants- Mosses, Ferns and seed plants
3. Protista

Again these organisms could be autotrophic or heterotrophic: aerobic, anaerobic or facultative.
The important organisms associated with the biological treatment processes include bacterias, fungi, algae, protozoa, rotifers, crustaceans and viruses.


Q. What are some pollutants that may affect the water cycle and how do they affect human water supplies?

A. The water cycle infact explains how the nature is maintaining water flow between the water bodies and through precipitation and transpiration etc.

As far as water pollution is concerned certainly the nature has capabilities to take care of the water pollutants but that is restricted only to a certain capacity, termed as self cleansing capacity of water body. Beyond a particular self cleansing capacity the nature fails to do the cleansing action, resulting in the water bodies loosing their natural color, taste of water and fail to support the fishes and other aquatic life. Further more, the cleansing action is restricted mainly to bio degradable wastes only and not to wastes like complex chemicals and heavy metals.

Due to non availability of treatment facilities for wastes and at times our inability to treat complex pollutants in the wastewater, the water quality of the water body could be rendered unfit for basic uses like drinking.


Q. If the water cycle replaces water, why do we worry so much about water pollution?

A. The water cycle infact explains how the nature is maintaining water flow between the water bodies and through precipitation and transpiration etc.

As far as water pollution is concerned certainly the nature has capabilities to take care of the water pollutants but that is restricted only to a certain capacity, termed as self cleansing capacity of water body. Beyond a particular self cleansing capacity the nature fails to do the cleansing action, resulting in the water bodies loosing their natural color, taste of water and fail to support the fishes and other aquatic life. Further more, the cleansing action is restricted mainly to bio degradable wastes only and not to wastes like complex chemicals and heavy metals.


Q. Why is it important to dig a compost pit? Can't we give the vegetable waste to the animals, instead of putting it in the pit?

A. Yes you can definitely give it to the animals but the waste is generated daily and the animals might not be available daily except if they are pet ones, in that case it would be a better idea to make compost (manure) from the waste which can be done by putting it in a pit. In that way you would be able to also help our plants grow better along with the animals. In your school and at home there are so many plants which also need your care.

Q. Halon-Mainly used in Fire Extinguishers is required to be phased out before 1st. January, 2000, as per the notification of MoEF.Please let us know the methodology to dispose off Halon.

A. The purchase of Halons based fire extinguishers is allowed till 1st Jan. 2002. There is no need to dispose Halons by destroying or releasing them. The GOI (Government of India) is in the process of setting up Halons Bank where the users can export their Halons for storage/banking. If there is some particular urgency in any of your facilities to dispose Halons, they can sell it to some Mumbai based companies who sell Halons based fire extinguishers.

It is to be noted that Halons can not be released into the atmosphere for disposal. The chemical method of destroying Halons is very expensive and it is also not needed as the accepted approach is to store and bank Halons. Once national Halon bank comes into existence, the stored Halons can be exported to it.

Q. How does water get hot in a solar collector?

A. A solar collector heats up water because of `Greenhouse Effect'. As you may be aware, a solar collector is essentially made up of black, metallic plate (with tubes attached to it). This is what is known as `absorber' because it absorbs the solar energy. This plate is kept in an insulated box, which is then covered with glassThis glass is `transparent' to incoming solar rays (which are short wave) thereby allowing the rays to pass through it. But these rays get converted into long wave, heat radiation when they come into contact with the `absorber'. The glass cover is `opaque' to these long wave radiation thereby preventing them to escape the box. This is known as `greenhouse effect'. This accumulated heat then gets transferred to the water flowing inside the tubes, attached with black absorber plate. This results in heating up of water

Q. What measures are taken to make sure waste is disposed of properly?

A. Waste especially solid waste is disposed mainly by following three ways:

1. Incineration - if the waste has sufficient calorific value, it can be burnt with and without energy recovery. Ash coming out of this combustion needs to be disposed properly. this has advantage that volume of waste to finally disposed gets reduced due to combustion and toxic constituents can be safely handled which are problem in other alternatives. preconditions are:

a. waste should have sufficient calorific value
b. incinerator should be properly designed to ensure that complete combustion takes place (proper oxygen flow, correct temperature and mixing of waste, oxygen and fuel).

2. Composting - organic fraction of the waste which is relatively non toxic and biodegradable can be converted into compost by aerobic and anaerobic degradation. Organic fraction in Municipal Waste (left over food, vegetable peels, etc.) are ideal candidate for this.

3. Land disposal - waste which can be otherwise composted and incineration ash need to land disposed. This is usually done in structures which are referred to as sanitary/secure landfills. The preconditions are:

a. the land filled should be lined with suitable material (clay and high density polyethylene liners to prevent contact of waste and earth material.
b. rain water ingress into waste should be minimized to minimize formation of leachate from the waste.
c. any leachate once formed should be collected and treated before discharge.
d. day-to-day waste disposal should be done in layer and compacted over which a layer of clay should be placed and compacted to prevent waste getting dispersed from the disposal site and to prevent exposure of waste to rodents, flies, birds, etc.

Q. What measures are taken to make sure sewage is treated properly?

Hartsdown School, UK

A. Sewage treatment is mostly done by aeration/oxidation of sewage. In this sewage is taken either to pond or tank which is provided with aerators -they basically churn the sewage. this serves the two purposes, one - it provides better mixing and two -it provides oxygen to the system during the churning process which is taken from atmosphere. During this process the microorganism present in sewage eat away the biological matter (oxidation) and produce CO2 and water. In order to ensure that this process runs smoothly there are few conditions:

1. there should be enough bacteria feeding in the system (which is usually there in sewage)
2. there should be proper temperature (30-38 degrees C around)
3. there should be enough nutrient in water to support growth of bacteria
4. pH of water should be around neutral
5. there should not be any shock loading (organic matter loading should be consistent with the capacity of bacteria in system to degrade them).
6. there should not be any toxic material (especially high concentration of heavy metals, cyanide etc.) loaded in the system).

Q. Everyone wastes water, forgets to switch off fans, lights, uses polybags but my mom keeps reminding me not to do the above.Can a single step by a small boy like me conserve it?

A. There is a famous saying that every drop of water builds up the ocean. In the same way action taken by each individual will add up to making the world a better place. Your mother is very right in insisting on you doing the right thing - if you contribute your little bit today you will feel proud tomorrow when the world becomes a better, less polluted and cleaner place. If all the children in the world do their little bit the world will definite become a better place to live in.

Follow all the dos and don'ts that will lead to a better tomorrow. Water has become precious, plastic bags are causing damage to the environment, conserving energy has become the need of the day. Do not waste water, switch off the lights and fans, do not use plastic bags as far as possible. Tell all your friends how you are making the world a better place, ask them to do the same and see the change that takes place around you.

Q. What are the main sources of water pollution in Thane Creek, east of Mumbai Island., what are it's effect & how can it be controlled ?

A. As per the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board), New Delhi, 1996 and 1997studies, the existing water quality in the Thane Creek puts it below the E category. This is based on theDesignated- Best- Use criteria defined by the CPCB.

The water quality was characterized by a low dissolved oxygen level, high Biochemical oxygen demand, high conductivity and Sodium absorption ratios. Such a water quality results from the discharge of untreated and partially treated waste waters. The sources include different industries with diverse nature of operations ranging from small scale units to chemical plants discharging highly complex wastes and the discharge of untreated sewage. In certain cases use of the river for disposal of solid wastes also leads to a deterioration in its water quality.

The most important effect of such discharges is that the creek has a water quality that renders it unfit for most of the productive uses like as a drinking water source, bathing, propagation of wild life and fisheries and in certain cases to be even used for irrigation and industrial cooling purposes. The other effects include foul odours, decline in its aesthetic appearance etc.

To improve the water quality, a detailed quantification and characterization of the pollutants discharged is required besides ensuring that none of the sources is discharging untreated or partially treated wastes into the river body.

Q. I want more information on water testing and how to check the water quality.

A. Water supply when talked of is generally associated to quantity only but quality of water is also a very important and an essential parameter. Parameters like color, turbidity (a characteristic of suspended solids), taste and odour in water can be made out based on observations. But parameters like pH, total dissolved solids, suspended solids, presence of heavy and toxic metals like mercury, chromium, arsenic etc. need analysis in a lab.

The CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board), New Delhi has developed a very handy testing kit for water quality analysis that could be used by students, NGOs and general public. This could be used for about 21 parameters. Information on how to obtain this kit could be had from the CPCB's office.

Standard procedures for a detailed analysis as suggested by the American Water Works 
www.awwa.org ) are generally followed in labs.

Q 1 What is water harvesting ?
Q 2 Where is the Floating national park in India and what is it known as?
Q 3 Where was the first microhydel plant setup in India in 1897?
Q 4 Which Volcanic Eruption in 1883 drastically affected solar radiation and brought about major weather changes all over the world?

A 1. Rainwater harvesting essentially means collecting rainwater on the roofs of building and storing it underground for later use. Not only does this recharging arrest groundwater depletion, it also raises the declining water table and can help augment water supply. 
More information is available at http://edugreen.teri.res.in/explore/water/conser.htm .
A 2. The Floating national park in India is located in the state of Manipur. It is known 
as the Keibul Lamjao National Park and is in the Loktak lake.
A 3. The first micro hydel plant was set up in Darjeeling in West Bengal.
A 4. 
The eruption of the Krakotoa volcano in Indonesia.

Q. What can be the pollution countermeasures to cope with the population increase?

A. The growth in population will automatically lead to increasing levels of pollution.
To control this we mainly need to consume just the right amount of natural resources and man made products, and to learn how to share resources (example: car pooling). Scientists are also looking at ways to manufacture goods more efficiently and using less materials. There is a need to avoid using items that have little value (example: plastic packing).

Q.  Why has the Govt. not been successful in cleaning the Yamuna river?

A. The Yamuna Action Plan was formulated by Govt.of India to clean the river Yamuna. However, the plan has met with limited success as adequate number of sewage/effluent treatment plants could not be constructed and the ones which were constructed did not function properly (factors - design not appropriate, skilled staff not available for operation and management). As a result, till untreated sewage/effluents continue to be discharged into river Yamuna.


Q. Why has the Delhi Govt. banned the burning of leaves?

A. Firstly, no state or city government has actually and legally banned the burning 
of leaves on the streets. However, the burning of leaves can be a public nuisance. The burning releases huge quantities of smoke (mainly particulate matter) and this can be severe in winters. The problem can indeed become acute and more of a concern if along with the leaves, plastic, discarded cells, etc are burnt.