In this article, You will read Environmental issues in Rural Settlement – for UPSC IAS (Geography).

Environmental issues in Rural Settlement

  • After food, shelter is the most important need of man. Environment deterministic approach (where environment determines the relationship between man and environment) with clearly highlighted the need for shelter due to extremes.
  • Settlement is a man’s important step towards adaptation in his physical environment and to enjoy a social life.
  • Over a period of time, due to cultural and socio-economic practices, settlements are divided into two categories i.e. Urban and Rural
  • The size and growth of rural settlement are associated with various environmental factors, which over a period of time degraded due to increasing population, high utilization of resource above carrying capacity like land and water, etc., increase of rural-urban fringe, urbanization practices under rural areas, high demand of timber and deforestation.

Types of environment issues in rural area

Environment ecology related issue

  • Deforestation: According to the secretariat of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), agriculture is the root cause of 80% of deforestation. Logging accounts for another 14% and the cutting of trees for use as wood fuel account for 5%.
  • Overgrazing: It reduces the usefulness, productivity, and biodiversity of the land. India lost 31% of grasslands between 2005 and 2015.
  • Land degradation (Land capability): Land degradation is the process of deterioration of soil or loss of fertility of the soil. Direct causes are unsuitable land use and inappropriate land management practices, for example, the cultivation of steep slopes without measures for soil conservation.
  • Pollution
    • Water pollution: Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, and groundwater). Water pollution affects plants and organisms living in these bodies of water and in almost all cases the effect is damaging not only to individual species and populations but also to the natural communities.
      • Drinking water: Here pollution of water can be caused by “point sources” or “non-point sources”. Point sources are specific sites near water that directly discharge effluents into them. Major point sources of water pollution in rural areas are fertilizers, dumping of wastes in rivers, ponds, etc, open defecation, and domestic usage.
      • Groundwater: One of the major sources of groundwater pollution in rural areas use of excessive fertilizers and over-exploitation of surface water leading to seepage of arsenic and fluorides in groundwater.
    • Air pollution
      • Stubble burning: Burning of stubble (material remaining in the field after harvesting) in rural areas leads to air pollution in both rural and urban areas
      • Indoor air pollution: Due to the use of non-traditional fuel resources such as wood, cow dung, etc. the women in rural areas are exposed to indoor air pollution in form of CO2, CO, etc.
      • Ammonia (NH3) release
      • CH4 form cows
    • Sound pollution
      • Sound pollution due to the transition of rural areas into urban affecting rural tranquillity.
    • Land pollution
      • Plastic use
      • Open defecation
      • Waste from small-scale and cottage industries.

Agriculture and related issue (Green Revolution)

  • Soil pollution (toxification of soil) due to the use of fertilizers.
  • Eutrophication: Eutrophication refers to the addition of artificial or non-artificial substances, such as nitrates and phosphates, through fertilizers or sewage, to a freshwater system. It can be anthropogenic or natural. It leads to an increase in the primary productivity of the water body or “bloom” of phytoplankton. The overgrowth causes the loss of oxygen in the water leading to severe reductions in fish and other animal populations.
  • Shifting cultivation
    • Under shifting cultivation, a piece of land is used for quite some years until fertility is dropped. After that, the farmers move to the new plots. It is practiced by tribal and also known as Burn and Slash cultivation.
    • This has resulted in large-scale deforestation, soil and nutrient loss, and invasion by weeds and other species. The indigenous biodiversity has been affected to a large extent.
  • Faulty practices leading to salinization: Example- the cultivation of rice in Rajasthan leading to deposition of salts on the upper horizon of soil from lower horizons due to quick evaporation of water)- treated by the addition of Gypsum in soil.
  • Soil erosion: Due to faulty agriculture practices, soil erosion in rural areas has become prominent leading to depletion of soil fertility.
  • Ingress of saline water in a coastal area: Lack of soil conservation practices in coastal villages has resulted in the ingress of saline water rendering the soil inappropriate for cultivation.
  • Acidification of soil due to excess use of fertilizers: Fertilizers contaminate the soil with impurities, which come from the raw materials used for their manufacture. Mixed fertilizers often contain ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), phosphorus as P2O5, and potassium as K2O. Further, the overuse of NPK fertilizers reduces the quantity of vegetables and crops grown on soil over the years.
Environmental issues in Rural Settlement
Rural India

Social ecology and related issues

  • Untouchability
  • Caste structure
  • Class system
  • Alcoholism
  • Superstition
  • Dowry, honour killing
  • Female foeticide
  • Domestic violence
  • Religious segregation
  • Women discrimination
  • Depleting common properties due to increasing population
  • Tribal area conflict
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Tuku Tandi

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Shivam Gaur

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