Population to Pollution: The Worst Environmental Nightmare
Published on : Friday 07-05-2021
Jasbir Singh presents an overview of the link between growing population and its impact on the environment.
The world population has tripled since 1951 and has more than doubled in the past 50 years. We find urban civilisation has grown much faster compared to rural. The world’s population clock has already touched 7.9 billion in 2021. Annual growth rate had reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at around 2%. The rate of increase has nearly halved since then, and will continue to decline in the coming years. Even with this rate of increase, the world population will touch 10 billion persons by the year 2057. This increase in urban population has placed an incredible amount of stress on our planet. Moreover this rate of population growth has increased deforestation, pollution and waste generation putting additional pressure on the environment and society at large. Human demand on nature increases with the increment of each day and big difference is seen every year. There is a direct relation between the world’s population and economy, which grows simultaneously, causing environmental pressure.
The global population living below the poverty line makes extensive use of goods and services, which are provided from a common pool of resources of the world's terrestrial and aquatic availability. In addition to this large percentage of the global population the disease burden is attributed to environmental factors. Natural resources are an important factor in the social safety net during economic downturn and constrained food supplies come under sustained pressure.
The major impacts are on the following factors:
A. Climate Change
i. Global Greenhouse Gas emissions
ii. Increasing evidence of an already changing climate
B. Biodiversity & renewable natural resources
i. Ecosystem quality
ii. Species loss
iii. Invasive alien species
iv. Tropical forests
v. Illegal logging
vi. Ecosystem fragmentation
i. Water scarcity
ii. Groundwater quality
iii. Agricultural water use & pollution
D. Air Quality
i. PM & ground-level ozone
ii. Road transport emissions
iii. Urban air quality
E. Waste & hazardous chemicals
i. Municipal waste generation
ii. Developing country emissions of CFCs
iii. Hazardous waste management and transportation
iv. Waste management in developing countries
v. Chemicals in the environment and in products
With the present rate of increase in population the demand of eco-friendly systems shall be growing to meet the challenges posed by it. There has been a parallel increase in innovation in the field of environmental engineering, which will ultimately emerge to support human beings by mitigating adverse impacts of current human activities on the planet.
Development on futuristic approach
Engineers and scientists around the world are developing technological solutions aimed at reducing and eliminating everything that causes global warming. World environmental bodies are supporting more sustainable practices propelled by public sentiment as well as new laws to reduce most impactful forms of environmental damage. Organisations and companies are amending their work processes for sustainable environmental friendly manufacturing. Consumers are becoming more conscious to support organisational commitments for sustainability towards nature and Green Innovation. Green innovation encompasses all innovations that improves the key products, services, or processes to reduce the harm, deterioration and impact, on the environment as well as optimises the use of natural resources for manufacturing. Environmental engineers are made responsible for redesigning current processes, futuristic processes and infrastructure to ensure people have access to clean air, safe water and healthy ecosystems.
Integration of both nature and science is required for environmental engineering innovation and redevelopment. It helps to improve healthy life for living creatures and save them by giving pure water, air, and land by keeping the area and surroundings pollution free. It includes air pollution control, wastewater management, hygienic waste disposal, and protecting from public health issues. Innovations in this segment of environment engineering are basically the application of better advanced solutions that meet green manufacturing requirements, in articulated with existing and futuristic demand. Innovations are done by scientists and engineers with new solutions, smart devices and optimised green processes. By way of innovation scientists/companies develop new ideas, more effective processes, technologies, products and services that are readily applicable to market demand, meeting government regulations and customer requirements.
The precarious effects of climate change have been captured during the past many years and unless environmental activists, governments of every nation, businesses and society take serious and coordinated action now, irreversible damage to nature cannot be avoided. Taking steps to protect us from environmental destruction the development initiated by industries/scientists/engineers need not be done in silos having best of information, nor any single shot of bullet with full of vital information can make us safe for future. The way forward is a multidisciplinary approach and having cooperation on a global scale for all round success. Industry/scientists often develop localised solutions and tests that can be operated independently in large-scale infrastructure, which can be expanded to similar setup globally.
Innovation cum economical solutions with automation
Environmental engineers are keen to create practical applications that have the possibilities to contribute towards the solutions for plastic crisis, climate crisis, lack of sanitation on a global scale, environmental impact of hunger for meat, and the disastrous impact of fossil-fuel based travel on earth and air.
While creating the innovative technology developers need to ensure that our planet shall sustain life for generations to come, where the negative environmental impact, knowledge, skills, insights of solutions and risk analysis will be critical to the work for system innovation. Many of the small solutions fragmentally developed and being implemented to save life on earth are already underway. Corporates need to learn and support planet-saving breakthroughs mediated by environmental engineering on a regular basis. Encouragingly, some entrepreneurs cum researchers are taking steps to address these issues and many innovations have been developed in recent times that have helped to reduce mankind’s created environmental footprint.
Lots of research based scholarly articles that have either been published and many more are under discussion shall help the Environmental Engineers/Entrepreneurs to develop a project based successful case studies/models. These are to be made available for the rest of the world to implement/horizontal deployment for nature’s protection to reduce the devastating impact of greenhouse gases.
Name of few subjects/articles
Materials and Processes for Thermal, Electrical and Photo-Chemical Energy Storage, Green Chemical Reaction Engineering for Sustainability, Process Research for Improved Throughput & Efficiency, and Reduced Cost & Environmental Impact, Efficient Processing of Lignin to Bioproducts and Biofuels, Biorefinery Technologies for Forest Based Lignocellulosic Biomass Food, Pharmaceutical & Bioengineering Division Forest and Plant Bioproducts, Conversion of Solid Wastes to Energy and/or Product, Value-Added Co-Products from Biorefineries, Life Cycle Analysis of Bio-Based Fuels, Energy, and Chemicals, Feedstock Logistics for Biorefineries, Catalytic Processing of Fossil and Biorenewable Feedstocks, and so on.
Some great innovations of recent times
Strategies that aim to reduce use of sand provide viable waste-management and decrease carbon emissions in concrete production are being developed in the form of eco-concrete and eco-bricks. Researchers are currently making cement with a 10 to 30 per cent waste-glass in composition, resulting in cheaper, stronger, and lighter cement having functional insulation, fire-resistance properties, and a lower emission of gases. Scientists are working on a biopolymer extracted from brown seaweed to create unfired clay bricks as an alternative to conventional fired bricks and concrete blocks.
The single-use plastics have been a thrust in the recent years by considering Breakdown Plastic. Data indicates that more than 70% of the world’s plastic ends up in garbage for landfill sites. These plastics are non-biodegradable substances that stay in the ground and generate toxic waste for hundreds of years. Breakdown plastic is a solution which includes an organic additive for biodegradation to happen within five years. It may be a cheap alternative to protect from the real impact on the world, struggling with the use of plastics. An invention by a company in New Zealand has created a system to turn all forms of plastic waste into concrete brick-shaped building blocks.
The cloth industry involves extensive supply chains, from the gathering of raw materials, to production and delivery. These stages cause considerable damage to the environment. Huge quantities of water and chemicals are used and extensive amounts of greenhouse gases are generated for designed fabric production. Environmental impact of these textile products has prompted the need of research into sustainable textiles. Likewise the organically grown food to organic textiles is the need of the hour. Some companies have shown interest in development and started producing.
Better fuel efficiency, improved aerodynamic design, shortest route mapping, and use of biofuel mix are the present day strategies being used by the aviation industry to protect the environment and global warming.
The USA, China and some other countries are trying to develop technology to make space solar power stations a reality. The technology would involve a satellite in space which will generate power from solar panels on board and convert it into microwaves or a laser to transmit onto earth by beaming it down to a receiving system on the earth surface.
Road construction in combination with photovoltaic techniques, solar-powered roads can deliver clean, renewable electric energy, without the need to capture valuable farmland or natural landscapes. 20m² solar roads can power a single home.
Right to breathe fresh air
Right to breathe fresh air is another challenge for us to protect all living creatures on the earth. Attempts are made to reduce the greenhouse gas production are ongoing. Theories are being developed to tackle the effects of those substances which are harmful for the atmosphere. Carbon Capture forms greenhouse gases by using various methods and technologies to remove it before being released to the atmosphere, followed by recycling the CO2 for better utilisation is the main priority. The technology enables countries both to remove harmful gases in the air and use them to create clean energy. This process is significantly contributing to the fight against climate change.
For every single change made during such innovative developments the application of artificial intelligence and modern automation in combination with robotic function provides a sustainable and economical option.
Jasbir Singh is an Automation Expert having long experience in Factory Automation, Line Automation, Implementation Strategist, Business Coach, Regular writer on automation, Artificial Intelligence, Robots/Cobots, Digital Technology, Network Communication, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Wireless Communication, Block Chain and use of advance digital technologies. He has established a long association with Business Houses/large production houses to improve factory automation in their production lines as well as productivity improvement in factories in India and overseas; and in advising and designing the units to transform into digital platforms by use of Artificial Intelligence. Email: [email protected]