By Peter Makwanya
THE global discourse on climate change has largely been dominated by carbon emissions resulting from, among other things, the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and land degradation. Not much has been talked about at the public level about the impact of pollution on soil and this remains hidden and a cause for concern.
Many neutral and less knowledgeable people are forced to believe that climate change is driven by fossil fuel burning and land use practices that include deforestation, landfills, land degradation and wildfires, among others.
This leaves out the soil pollution without being talked about, less researched and published. In this way, soil polluters, mainly industry, mining, manufacturing and agribusinesses, take advantage of people’s ignorance of these hidden activities to pollute the soil even more.
Soil pollution generally refers to the presence of chemicals or substances in soil at higher than normal levels that have adverse effects on organisms. Because soil pollution is barely visible, it becomes a hidden danger and cause for concern.
As people gradually gain knowledge and understanding of soil pollution, concerns about soil pollution are being raised and gradually built up in many regions, requiring joint efforts to deal with them.
A lack of publicity about soil pollution activities leads to gaps in communication and knowledge in many cases and situations when trying to protect perpetrators. This means that soil polluters can pollute at will and continue to leave negative carbon footprints on land, adversely affecting ecosystem balance and services.
As the pathogens of global warming are fueled by carbon emissions, among others, the main sucking of the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, forest fires, land degradation, e-waste, soil pollution is dominated by agrochemicals, industry, factory and mine sewage, plastic mulch or broken equipment.
The long list also includes microplastics, antibiotics, pesticides, organic fertilizers or salt deposits that contribute to biodiversity loss and degradation. Soil pollution damage also includes soil damage, surface and groundwater pollution (drying streams, ponds, rivers, wetlands), reduced crop quality and yields. Soil pollution seems to escape the attention of the majority of people, or rather, they are powerless to act. This also includes a lack of knowledge about the amount of chemicals in soil, water and plants.
The chemicals that pollute soils are released into the environment in a variety of ways, accidentally, intentionally such as through the use of fertilizers, pesticides, or through direct application or release via landfills, legally or illegally. All of these processes release gases from the soil into the atmosphere.
Because of this, many companies, individuals, institutions and systems circumvent strict environmental compliance measures by labeling their chemical products as eco-friendly or ozone-friendly, just to confuse people and force them to buy green. This is an unethical business-related practice that makes the entire processes complicated and uncontrollable.
Not all water is suitable for irrigation, so it is not recommended to irrigate crops or plants with untreated water.
The diverse nature and sometimes unavoidable practices both on the surface and underground make soil pollution possible, although solutions are needed. Situations need to be managed, moderated, and regulated in order for ecosystems to thrive and deliver their services.
Soil pollution continues to cause damage, disruption and disruption to the major ecosystems produced by soil and the ecological balance of nature.
All the disadvantages of soil pollution have adverse effects on food security and microorganism interactions and survival due to toxin concentrations in soils. Sometimes plants produced under these conditions may be unsafe for human and animal consumption.
Soil pollution also directly damages soil microorganisms, thereby affecting the ecosystem. The microorganisms perform natural functions that contribute to the balance and nutritional value of the soil.
Governments around the world are advised to take soil pollution seriously and guard against the continued accumulation of pollutants beyond recommended levels to ensure sustainable human health and well-being, including a healthy environment and safe food.
It is also important to tackle soil pollution through smart farming practices that are pollution-free, emission-free and environmentally friendly, including ensuring food security.
Anthropogenic activities are the main drivers of soil pollution, including from abandoned factories and mines, uncontrolled landfills and derelict equipment.
Many countries have a number of abandoned mines with open water bodies, including mine chemicals, which pose a major hazard to nearby soils and environments. Soils associated with legal or illegal mining activities are also constantly at risk.
In many developing countries, including Zimbabwe, activities such as mining conducted under poor environmental standards are increasing.
Uncovered pits are an eyesore, as are man-made canyons, degraded and silted rivers. Many artisanal mining rivers are heavily polluted with mercury as miners search for the yellow metal.
Industrial activities, while unavoidable, must comply with quality assurance regulations to prevent toxins from entering soil and water. The absorption of these pollutants by the surrounding soil makes the entire process unsafe.
Although the processes and procedures are complicated due to the lack of knowledge and practices about landfilling, industry authorities sometimes take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge and voice and pollute the environment.
This has caused rivers, streams, ponds and wetlands to dry up and kill off the vital microorganisms in the soil.
- Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He is writing in his personal capacity and can be contacted at: [email protected]