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Man made Ecological Disasters
The ecosystem is a natural unit of plants, animals and environment. The life in an ecosystem depends on the environment. The required energy in the form of sunlight and nutrients is received from the environment. Quite often man-made disasters take place causing human deaths and financial losses.Disturbance in any component of the environment has a harmful effect on the ecosystem.
The change in the physical, chemical or biological characteristics of the environment (air, water and land) affects human life and other living organisms. Any substance present in the environment in harmful concentrations, pollutes and adversely adversely alters the environment.
There are two main causes of pollution:
- Natural causes
- Man-made or anthropogenic causes
The main man-made causes of pollution are: Industrialization, overpopulation, nuclear explosion, deforestation, quarrying and mining, use of fertilizers and pesticides, automobiles.
Ecological disasters Caused by Man
Some of the major man-made ecological disasters which caused heavy loss of human lives and made financial losses of high magnitude are described herein –
The Smog of Meuse Valley (1930): Belgium
On 1 December 1930, high concentrate of industrial emission leaked from a plant in Meuse valley in Belgium. The leak continued for five days and the valley was trapped with a thermal inversion layer. It resulted in the death of 60 persons and there were many complaints of respiratory ailments.
Nuclear bomb accident (1945): Japan
On August 6, 1945 a uranium bomb nick named Little Boy was dropped in Hiroshima town of Japan by US military. Three days later another plutonium bomb was dropped in Nagasaki town. From the two nuclear explosions 2,14,000 lost their precious lives and
1,75,000 were fully or partially incapacitated. All living and nonliving things in few kilometers of radius were completely damaged causing heavy financial losses.
The Chisso chemical plant used to release residues containing mercury into the Minamita bay. The aquatic organisms consumed the soluble methyl mercury. People in the vicinity ate the fish and suffered from blurred vision, headache, loss of muscle control etc. About 50 people died and 3500 were affected.
The London smog (1952): England
The incident took place from December 5 to 9 1952. A thick black fog was caused owing to extensive combustion of fuel by automobiles and fossil powered industries. The increased concentration of pollutants caused nearly 4000 deaths due to suffocation. Similar fog conditions occurred in London in 1956 and 1962 resulting in more deaths each time.
Bhopal gas tragedy (1984): India
On December 3, 1984 due to the alleged functional failure of vent scrubber outlet, toxic gas escaped from the underground storage tanks of the pesticide manufacturing plant of Union Carbide in the city of Bhopal in India. More than 2500 people died on the spot and another 1,00,000 people were disabled.
Chernobyl disaster (1986): Russia
On April 26, 1986 a major accident occurred at an atomic reactor plant at Chernobyl in Ukraine of former Soviet Union. About 1000 people were affected by radiation burns and another 1,40,000 people were evacuated from the vicinity of explosion to safer places. The explosion in the atomic reactor was caused by the failure of emergency cooling in the light water graphite reactor due to human failure.
Explosion of LPG storage tanks (1997): India
During the transfer of LPG from a ship to a factory in Vizagh town of India, a leakage from the pipe caught fire. The fire resulted in the explosion of storage tanks causing a black shower. About 55 workers died and 10,000 people fled from the area.
B P Oil spill (2010): USA
B P Oil spill also referred to as Deep water Horizon occurred on April 20, 2010 in Gulf of Mexico. The explosion killed 11 workers and injured 17.The oil spill spread over an area of 3850 square miles. The spill followed an explosion on an oil rig. The oil was leaking @ 5000 barrels per day and was about 5000 feet below the surface. Three basic approaches were adopted for removing the oil from the water – burning the oil, filtering off-shore and collecting for later processing.
Due to man-made ecological disasters, humanity is capable of destroying itself and every trace of life from the surface of earth. This can be brought about instantaneously through nuclear holocaust or gradually by destroying the environment. Heavy loss of life and property are caused on this account. As such, the prime need of the hour is to educate and provide an awareness to the public regarding the economic and ecological disasters that may follow the man-made mishaps.
1. Engineering, Environment and Society, Mukhi H R,Satya Prakashan,New Delhi,1996
2.Society and Environment, Suresh K Dhameja, S K Kataria and Sons,Delhi,2006-07
3.Ecology and Environment, Pandey B N Pandey, APH Publishing,Delhi,2006