Land pollution is the destruction or degradation of Earth's surface and soil often directly or indirectly as a result of human activities.
Causes of Land Pollution
Land pollution is caused by human activities such as deforestation, poor disposal of untreated waste, excessive use of pesticides and oil spills.
Deforestation is the action of clearing wide areas of trees for commercial gain. Trees contribute to proper soil fertility, moisture content, aeration and, hence, soil fertility. Deforestation exposes soil to intense sunlight, which affects the various properties of the soil. Degraded soil is unsuitable for agricultural use.
Poor Disposal of Untreated Waste
Industrial waste contains harmful chemicals, which, when not properly disposed of, may change the soil properties. Untreated wastes affect the soil pH, soil micro-organisms and soil structure. Polluted soils are unsuitable for agricultural and commercial use.
Excessive Use of Pesticides
Pesticides contain chemical elements that, when exposed to the soil, may change the soil PH, kill micro-organisms or even chemically react with useful soil elements. This results in low agricultural yields.
Oil spills from oil mining fields may result in long-term or permanent loss of soil fertility. Crude oil contains harmful chemicals that do not easily degrade. Lands exposed to oil spills are expensive to rehabilitate and are often left barren following a spill.
Effects of Land Pollution
Land pollution causes losses in many forms, all of which are related to the soil's ability to thrive.
Loss of Agricultural Land
Polluted lands are unable to provide high yields due to the effect on soil structure, acidity levels, micro-organisms and other properties. Lands polluted with harmful chemical substances cannot be used for agriculture due to health risks to the general population. In this regard, land pollution directly affects the world's food security.
Loss of Biodiversity
Land pollution affects the ability of micro-organisms to thrive in the soil. This interruption in the ecosystem may trigger a chain reaction that upsets the environment in many different ways. Moreover, land is very important to the sustenance of the ecosystem. Thus, a small change in its properties may result in loss of biodiversity.
Emergence of Resistant Weeds
Pollution may weaken the growth of food crops and favor the growth of resistant weeds. This happens when the land cannot sustain the growth of native food crops. Emergence of tough weeds make farming more expensive and reduces the yield.
Foods grown in polluted lands may contain harmful chemical elements in them. Consumption of such foods may result in health complications such as allergies, cancer and several pollution-related diseases.
How to Solve Land Pollution
Land Pollution can be solved or minimized through recycling of wastes, organic farming, waste treatment, education and reforestation.
Recycling of wastes promotes effective use of used materials by turning them into other important goods. This eliminates the need to dump the materials on land and thus reduces land pollution. Organic farming discourages the use of chemical fertilizers and affects the soil pH, structure and presence of micro-organisms. Crops grown through organic farming do not contain harmful chemical substances and are suitable for human consumption.
Treatment of industrial wastes prevents the introduction of harmful chemical wastes to the soil. Proper legislation and industrial goodwill are needed for this solution to be effective. Restoration of forests is important for the improvement of soil quality and structure. Increase of forest cover also increases biodiversity, positively affecting soil properties.