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By Dr. Abhijit Mukherjee

Definition of soil

Soil is a thin layer of material on the Earth's surface in which plants have their roots. It is made up of many things, such as weathered rock and decayed plant and animal matter. Soil is formed over a long period of time.

Soil Types






Peat Soil

Soil Pollution:

The introduction of substances, biological organisms, or energy into the soil, resulting in a change of the soil quality, which is likely to affect the normal use of the soil or endangering public health and the living environment.

Pollutant on surface of soil

When any liquid pollutant is on or just below the ground surface for any period of time, one of three things could happen to it, if it is not cleaned up first.

1: pollutant might be washed away by precipitation, causing little or no harm to the ground on which it was found ( however, pollutants will simply accumulate somewhere else)

2: the pollutant, if volatile, could evaporate, again causing little harm to the soil ( however, not a solution to the bigger pollution problem, as it might become a source of air pollution)
3: pollutant could infiltrate through the unsaturated soil, in much the same way as groundwater.

Causes of Soil Pollution

1. Mining 2. Deforestation 3. Agricultural Activities

4. Invasive unwanted life-forms

5. Industrial activities

1. Mining Processes
i) Surface Mining By removing (stripping) surface vegetation, dirt, and if necessary, layers of bedrock in order to reach buried ore deposits.

(a) Open pit mining: recovery of materials from an open pit in the ground
(b) Strip mining: stripping surface layers off to reveal ore underneath (c) Mountaintop removal: involves taking the top of a mountain off to reach ore deposits at depth.

An open pit mine operated by the giant Indian firm Tata at the company's West Bokaro site in Jharkhand

1. Mining Processes .
Subsurface Mining By digging tunnels or shafts into the earth to reach buried ore deposits. Drift mining: utilizes horizontal access tunnels Slope mining: uses diagonally sloping access shafts Shaft mining: shafts consists of vertical access




1. Mining :- Effects of Mining

Mine spoils and tailings Strip mining of copper produces -100 10,000 mg/kg cadmium and lead - Iron pyrites (FeS2) - devastating effect on aquatic environment

Gold mining produces residual levels of CNcomplexes. Producing a single gold ring generates 20 ton of mining waste.

1. Mining - Effects of Mining

Smelting and refining processes require very high temperature to reduce the metal oresEg. Pyrite iron, Bauxite - aluminium At these high temperatures, many metals and metal compounds volatilize. In coal mining methane gases are released (causing a greenhouse effect)

2. Deforestation
Deforestation is the clearance of forests by logging and/or burning (popularly known as slash and burn).

2. Deforestation - Causes

Urban and Construction Purposes To Grow Crops To Create Grazing Land Used for Fuel Oil and mining exploitation To make highways and roads Slash and burn farming techniques Wildfires Acid rain

2. Deforestation - Environmental Problems Caused

Soil Erosion Disruption of the Water Cycle

Loss of Biodiversity
Flooding and Drought Emission of greenhouse gases

2. Deforestation - Soil Erosion


erosion is the process by which soil is moved. - Natural Erosion - Accelerated Erosion human intervention

2. Deforestation - Causes of Soil Erosion

1. Wind erosion 2. Water erosion 3. Glacier erosion 4. Land Slide

2. Deforestation - Causes of Soil Erosion

Wind Erosion - causes air pollution, produces highway safety hazards, and fills drainage ditches. - soil is moved by suspension, saltation and surface creep.

2. Deforestation - Causes of Soil Erosion



2. Deforestation - Causes of Soil Erosion

Water Erosion
Splash Erosion

1. Splash Erosion 2. Sheet Erosion 3. Rill Erosion 4. Gulley Erosion

3. Agricultural Activities

Fertilizers Pesticides

3. Agricultural Activities Fertilizers

Why 16 essential elements required for the growth of all plants: C, H, O, N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, Mo, B, and Cl in various ionic forms.

excessive cropping and in particular dense monoculture practices deplete soil plant nutrients, especially N, P, K, and Ca.

N, P, K, and other plant nutrients must be periodically augmented by the use of fertilizers

3. Agricultural Activities Fertilizers

The Problem Overuse of fertilizers reduce quantity of vegetables and crops grown on soil over the years.

also reduces protein content of maize, wheat, gram etc.


potassium content in soil decreases Vitamin C and carotene content in vegetables and fruits.

vegetables and fruits grown over an overfertilized soil are more prone to attacks by insects.

3. Agricultural Activities Fertilizer

3. Agricultural Activities Pesticides

It is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.
-Insecticide: -Herbicide: -Fungicide:

DDT, chlorpyrifos, malathion etc.

Glyphosate, atrazine etc.

Chloropicrin, metam-sodium, 1,3-dichloropropene etc.

3. Agricultural Activities - Fate of Pesticides

3. Agricultural Activities - Effects of

Pesticides on Non-Target Organisms
a. Tremendous diversity of soil organisms - few pesticides kill all
b. Population of sensitive organisms - may take 1-2 yrs. to recover c. Earthworms may bioaccumulate - affects their predators (birds) - DDT, Pb

d. Pesticides have little effect on bacteria - except for nitrifiers

3. Agricultural Activities Soil Acidity and Salinity



Acid rain
Natural acid soils are usually found in the tropics, the result of thousands of years of excessive weathering of soil minerals. Agricultural soils can also become acidic due to the continuous additions of large amounts of acid-forming fertilizers such as ammonia and urea.

3. Agricultural Activities Soil Acidity and Salinity

Soil Salinity Soil salinity is a measure of the minerals and salts that can be dissolved in water. Na+, Cl-, SO42-, HCO3-, K+, Mg++, NO3

Excess soil salinity causes poor and spotty stands

of crops, uneven and stunted growth and poor yields.

The primary effect of excess salinity is that it

renders less water available to plants because of the increased osmotic pressure of the soil solution.

5. Industrial Activities

Raichur Thermal Power Plant

5. Industrial Activities

Fly ash Pond of Raichur

5. Industrial Activities
Spreading of pond ash

Stone pitching for slope protection

5. Industrial Activities
Mixing of lime stabilised pond ash

Compaction of stabilised pond ash using road roller

Control of Soil Pollution

Reducing usage of fertilizer and pesticides Reusing of materials

Recycling and recovery of materials

Aforestation and Reforestation Soil remediation

Soil Remediation
(1) Containment, where the contaminant is restricted to a specified domain to prevent further spreading;
(2) Removal, where the contaminant is transferred from an open to a controlled environment;

(3) Treatment, where the contaminant is transformed into a nonhazardous substance.

Soil Remediation
- Physical Barriers

- Hydraulic Barriers

Soil Remediation
There are three major types of physical barriers: slurry walls, grout curtains and sheet piling.

Physical Barriers

Soil Remediation

Hydraulic Barrier

Soil Remediation
- Excavation

- Pump-and-Treat
- Enhanced Flushing (injection of reagent solution) - Soil Venting

- Thermal treatment


Pump-and-Treat process

Soil Remediation
3. Treatment - Biological (Bioremediation) - Aerobic - Anaerobic - Cometabolic - Chemical

Soil Remediation

Bioremediation can be defined as any process that uses microorganisms, fungi, green plants or their enzymes to return the natural environment altered by contaminants to its original condition. Bioremediation may be employed to attack specific soil contaminants, such as degradation of chlorinated hydrocarbons by bacteria.

Soil Remediation

Aerobic mineralization of organic compound

Soil Remediation

In situ bioremediation

Soil Remediation


Arsenic Cadmium Cadmium and Zinc Lead Sodium Chloride Caesium-137 and Strontium-90

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) Willow (Salix viminalis) Alpine pennycress (Thlaspi caerulescens) Indian Mustard (Brassica juncea) Barley (Hordeum vulgare) Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)