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Prof. Thrivikramji.K.P
Very survival of humanity in the planet earth primarily is with the consent and support of
portions of the three-sub-spheres of the planet earth, such as, troposphere (a part of the
lower atmosphere), coastal waters, rivers, inland water bodies and glaciers and snow fields
and the polar ice caps (part of the hydrosphere) and pedosphere (upper most part of the

Of the three earth spheres, viz., atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere, the most dynamic
of all is atmosphere and as a consequence, the currents generated by pressure differentials
manifest as winds of varying velocity, character and consequences. One of the built in
advantages of the dynamism is the ability of the lower atmosphere to dilute and transfer trans-
oceanically or trans-continentally the gaseous and particulate (aerosols) effluents discharged
either by natural sources and processes (i.e.,effluents from solfatras, mud volcanoes, and
volcanic vents during eruptions) or by human actions (like rice paddy farming leading to
release of methane gas, addition of methane by millions of ruminating livestock in ranches
and the all pervading automobile and smoke stack emissions due to burning of fossil fuels like
gas, oil and coal ). All these add to the level of GHGs to the atmosphere.

However, the GW aquifers, waters of rivers and lakes and coastal waters in the various
continents are far less dynamic than the atmosphere resulting in a slower process of dilution
of anthropogenically added chemical wastes, residues of biocides, agricultural chemicals and
soil amendments, (both in liquid and particulate form) and hence a longer residence time in
the water bodies.

As most of the aquifer systems are hydraulically linked to surface water sources, in such a
context, the chances are that the chemical residue laden surface water tends to contaminates
the ground water. Unlike surface water bodies, decontamination of aquifers is still a far cry,
resulting near permanent loss o such sources of water. Yet, being water, one might still find
an avenue for use of such waters in a limited way.

Soil by definition is the nearly contiguous surface layer of earth that supports plant life and life
of some soil bacteria. Hence, soil is the basis of all farming, viz., food stuff, floriculture and of
late for fast growing seasonal species that is commercially used for manufacturing petrol
additives like ethanol. Without soil, commercial cultivation of crops is impractical, and will
affect the very sustenance of living beings including humans.

Due to the pressing need to produce more food stuff to feed the growing populations, many
nation states of the world have launched intensive and scientific farming with modern or
genetically modified seeds, seedlings, irrigation, chemical fertilizers, soil conditioners and
biocides. Residues of fertilizers, soil conditioners, and biocides originating from plantations
and agricultural farms and even from golf-courses and homestead greens, are another
important source of chemical pollutants. Such residues wreak havoc to surface water and
ground water aquifers.

In order to grasp the enormity of the problem, a knowledge of the earth system and its
workings are very essential, and especially those like soil forming or rock weathering
processes, loss of soil and loss of chemicals native to the soil, hydrological cycle and its
modifications and newer-man-made-links within it. Ammunition of this knowledge alone can
help design a model for correcting the situation. In what follows, current status of the realms
of air, water and soil will be examined and certain initiatives for possible correction will also be

Differences in climate, geological (rock) formations and tectonics of any region are
foundations of the processes that will determine the nature and type soil and the water
These generalities are valid on the scale of a continent as well as that of the basic study unit
of the geological processes, like a watershed. Generally 3 rd or 4th order watersheds are
considered in the documentation of parameters that are basic to the soil and water resources.

Rock - water-air continuum

For most of the first half of last century, many lay citizens (including those of developed world)
with out any introduction to geoscience, minerals, rocks, groundwater and air quality are
domains insulated from each other. In fact such information was only with specialists or
academia. But increased awareness brought to light by the electronic and print media as well
as the founding of separate ministry or department of environment in various nations paved
the way for exposure of environmental issues and role of geoscience in such issues to the
centre stage citizen’s life. Theme specific NGO’s like Green Peace, Sasthrasahithya
Parishath as well as scores of others took the cause of environment from capital to capital
and house hold to house hold. That geospheres, viz., atmosphere, hydrosphere and
lithosphere are the anchor sheet of environment necessitates a brief introduction to these. In
other words, the rock-water-air interaction is the basis of all chemical ions traced in waters of
all sorts like, surface water, ground water, seawater and so on.

Knowledge of earth spheres is basic to a reasonable appreciation of the foregoing. It calls for
an introduction to properties and compositions of geological materials like rocks and minerals,
which slowly transforms to soil, and releases the dissolved, suspended and bed load to
smaller streams and large rivers. Rocks belong to three major categories, viz, igneous
(crystallized from a molten magma), sedimentary (formed by deposition of clastic or non-
clastic sedimentary particles in small or large basins and seas) and metamorphic rocks
(formed by transformation of the two former types under great temperatures and pressures in
the range of several kb and temperatures of a few hundred degrees Celsius).

Further 99% of the crust, the outer most of the three divisions of the lithosphere, is composed
of eight elements (O,Si,Al,Fe,Ca,Na,K and Mg in the order of abundance), which go into
making of a set minerals of low density, viz., dominantly by silicates and aluminosilicates
(Table.1). Silicates of Fe,Mg and Ca form in highest temperatures and pressures and occur in
basic rocks. Under lowest temperatures and pressures mineral silicates of Na, K and pure
silica or quartz form the acid rocks such as granites. Table 2 lists the common minerals and
the chemical elements in sedimentary rocks.

The rock minerals, notwithstanding their types, when they are at the surface of the earth,
undergo process of chemical weathering fuelled by water with dissolved atmospheric CO2,
transform themselves to newer set of minerals that are more stable on earth’s surface
temperature and pressure conditions. Some of the chemical elements of the parent minerals
are released to the reacting water as dissolved ions (Table 3). Dissolution, oxidation,
hydrolysis and acid hydrolysis are the chief weathering processes.

Dissolution, a simple process independent of pH, involves dissolution of soluble minerals in

water. Due to its polar nature, water very effectively dissolves ionic compounds. In Oxidation,
oxygen freely combines with minerals in reduced state and creates colloidal oxides or
hydroxides. Oxidation of mine waste with sulphide minerals generates pH in the level of <4. In
hydrolysis water chemically reacts with the dissolved ions. In acid hydrolysis, a process
similar to hydrolysis, water is laden with hydrogen ions from dissolved acids.

Weathering and Rocks

The ultimate effect of rock water interaction produces increasingly large concentrations of
dissolved solids with variable anionic concentrations mostly dictated by sources hydrogen
ions, where as cationic abundances are determined by the source rock or soil.

In fact, chemistry and mineralogy are the factors that determine the resistance of minerals to
weathering. Hornblende a low temperature iron and magnesium phase is more resistant than
olivine a high temperature phase. Under surface conditions, many minerals are soluble in
varying degrees, for example calcite (CaCO3) is readily soluble compared to partially soluble
alumino-silicates like feldspar, which result in a dissolved phase and solid phase or clay

Therefore, in regions dominated by calcareous rocks, waters are rich in Ca2+ and HCO3- ,
have a higher pH and hence hard-water. But in terrains underlain by silicate rocks, the
content of dissolved ions are very low in water and has a lower pH and hence is called soft-

Paths of dispersal of elements

Chief geological agents, wind and water are efficient in redistributing the surface materials
either as particulate matter (either as aerosols or as granular material closer to the earth’s
surface) or in dissolved state (dissolved load).or in suspension (suspended load) or over the
stream bed as bed-load. The latter three, i.e., dissolved load (DL), suspended load (SL) and
bedload (BL) jointly constitute the total load (TL) of any river. Truly, the various types of loads
are products of rock weathering. Weathering products, in dissolved, colloidal and granular
states are dispersed in the realms of soil and water. Elements in the resistant minerals are
hardly released to the environment and therefore do not pose threats. But from less resistant
minerals, elements are added to water in dissolved state or as ions and neutral molecules
(non-electrolytes)od organic and inorganic compounds. In addition, Eh and pH of the
weathering environment are also significant in respect of solution or precipitation of minerals.

Chemical Elements in Environment

The basement rocks and soil are the chief determinants of distribution of elements in the
physical system and indirectly the biotic system. All chemical elements are not equally
reactive with the plant and only those that are easily leached from soils are available for
plants and possibly part of the food chain thereby making its way to animals and finally to
man. Though soils are a mixture of several elements, their relative abundance is no way an
indicator of importance to man.

Moisture content and pH are the factors deciding the release of mineral elements to plants.
For e.g., soil with Se toxicity or selenosis, in animals are found in well drained soils with pH of
8 or more. But soil moisture works differently with different elements in respect of their
availability. Rice plant, during growth in a pool of standing water, showed lower level of Cd in
rice grain (Iimura,1981), due to decrease in soluble or extractable Cd from the soil. But Mo
extractability is increased by such moisture levels.

Plants also respond differently with respect to their uptake of chemical elements. For e.g.,
grasses, compared to legumes, are poor indicators of the geochemical environment of soils.
Specific plant parts also differ in respect of concentration of chemical elements. Leaves have
higher content than the stems. Plants and animals do help to maintain a healthy mineral level
in human foods.

The elemental distribution also varies geographically from one region to another as it is chiefly
controlled by the distribution of source soils, which have dependency most of the time, on
their parent rocks.

The soil-plant-animal chain in fact is a system of subsystems which buffers man against
possible exposure to excess mineral elements. Further, man might also get exposed to such
elements from other sources like the work, or recreational environment. Trace element
deficiencies and toxicities in the biota might not directly and easily find their way into humans
due to corrections by supply of nutrients.

For example, in Australia, “trace-element-deserts” have been converted to productive areas

by fertilizing with Cu,Zn and Mo and this has increased productivity of the soil and also
improved the geochemical environment (Anderson and Underwood, 1959). Trans-continental
and trans-regional shipment of food and food preparation are in fact sort of an insurance
against the relationship between soil and human health.

Water Quality
Almost every human activity needs use of water. Water quality means the chemical
composition that perhaps determines the suitability for a specific use. Hardness of water
results from the presence of certain dissolved ions. Only chemistry of sea water probably
stayed without change through geologic time, whereas chemistry did change through time in
domains like rivers, lakes and lagoons.

Climate and rock formations are the factors that influence the water chemistry. More acidic
water occurs in polar streams due to higher solubility of CO2 in colder waters. In warm waters
opposite is true. Streams draining wooded tracts tend to be brown or yellow due to presence
of tannic acid produced by decay of plant remains. Water quality variations through a year, is
a reflection of changes in climate resulting in modification of reaction rates.

Human Impact
Ingenuity of humans to modify and transform various elements of the environment is
proverbial. Generally due to ignorance, humans did not understand the tacit balance that
exists among the natural systems. Pollution of the environment was inaugurated by the very
first nomads (by slash and burn agriculture) or by settlers (by lighting the first woodstove to
cook or bake food stuff like meat or grains.

Hem (1970) said that “pollution is not exactly definable but ……restrict it to adverse effects on
natural water quality that are definitely man-produced”. Pollution originates:
a. as direct input of such runoff from excessive fertilization
b. as indirect and subtle inputs such as excess nitrates and phosphates leading to algal
blooms and eutrophication of ponds and lakes

Another source of pollution is effluents from improperly buried wastes, which also
contaminate the GW aquifer systems. GW trace metals may originate from natural or man
made sources (e.g., As pollution of GW in Bangala Desh). A knowledge of processes taking
place in natural systems would possibly render designs to slow down or control the pollution.

Drinking water quality

Chemical elements and Human health

Earth’s crust and sea water are the only sources of trace elements for human health, which
need to be consumed as food stuff, unlike vitamins which are synthesized in the body. So far
no element above atomic number 53 is yet to be proved as essential for humans. It must also
be kept in mind that many elements are essential, therapeutic, toxic and carcinogenic`-
mutagenic, depending on their concentration and chemical form. (Anderson, 1977) has
suggested the recommended dietary allowances of elements. Ca, Cl, Mg, P, Na and S are
essential macro nutrients needing at least 100 mg/day. Essential micro-nutrients, i.e., about a
few mg/day are Cr, Co, Cu, F, I, Fe, Mn, Mo, Se and Zn. Populations in areas where I is not
available through meat or vegetables, addition of I through table salt (NaI) is resorted to
prevent incidence of enlarged thyroid glands or goiter. In china, children living in Se
deficient soil regions appear to contract a peculiar miocarditis.

Toxic elements
Elements like Hg, Cd and Pb, are known for toxicity and indeed some are even lethal to
humans. As used to be known as a destroyer and savior of mankind, is a known carcinogen
and populations in Taiwan and of late in Bengaladesh are left with As laden ground-water for
drinking water needs.

Natural Radioactvity in the Environment

Terrestrial radioactivity is chiefly caused by Uranium, thorium and potassium contained in the
terrestrial acid igneous rocks. U is an essential component of about 100 minerals. Importantly,
distribution of these in soil and water are controlled by the distribution of parent rocks and the
type of weathering. Average U values in soils reach upto 1-5 ppm. U can go in to solution and
can migrate far off in solution can reach aquifers or through surface flow into basins of
depositions, where it can get trapped in sediments under reducing conditions. The peat bogs
of Russia and Scandinavia are best examples containing up to 3.0% U on dry basis. Th is
relatively immobile radio nuclide. With an average crustala abundance of 2.5%, among its 3
isotopes only 40K is radioactive with a low presence of 0.012 % in nature.

226 Ra, a daughter of U, has a daughter 222Rn a heavy gas. Being a gas it rises through the
weak zones and fissures in the basement rocks and dissipates to the atmosphere. But it may
also get trapped in confined spaces like highly insulated homes or energy efficient homes and
buildings posing a threat to health of humans using such buildings where Rn levels has gone
up considerably.

Kerala: status of environment

Kerala is a very special among other states of the union, in that it is a state with a support
square size of 32.0m, tropical monsoon climate, a 580 km long wave dominated shore line,
and a population of 32 million spread across the state in amore or less continuous style and in
all the three physiographic divisions, viz., highland, midland and coastal land.

Air, water and soil of Kerala have been subject to varying levels of environmental stress. In
general, air quality in Kerala is spread over a wide range from pristine in the high ranges to
polluted Udyogamandal industrial belt. Yet industrial emissions are not a great threat to the air
quality. Automobile exhaust truly poses a threat to the vegetation and soil adjoining the state’s
highways. The monsoon rains wash down all the particulates to the soil, smaller and finally
into larger streams.

A recent estimate of GHG (green house gases) like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous
oxide emitted from various sectors in Kerala are given in Table 4. Burning of petro-products,
firewood, wetland both coastal and inland wetlands, ruminating animals and retting of coconut
husk jointly contribute to the GHGs. Analysis of temperature data supplied by IMD for the
period between 1970 and 2000, reveal an increasing or rising trend of mean maximum
temperature (SER, 2005), but distribution of rainfall does show little or no change.

Though, Kerala receives at least 2.5 times more rain fall per unit area than the national
average, many towns and villages of Kerala experiences scarcity for drinking water in
summer months chiefly due to lowest-per capita-freshwater availability of fresh water I
comparison with other Indian states. In 2005, drinking water requirement of Kerala is
estimated as 645.0 mlpd which will grow to 697 mlpd by 2010. Increasing water demand by
domestic, industrial, farming, hydel and other sectors of the state, has led to water scarcity.
Many towns and villages go dry due to fall in water table.

Other problems faced are salinity intrusion into aquifers in coastal districts, water logging due
to irrigation (around 400 ha of land in the command areas of Kuttiyadi and Malampuzhaz
irrigation projects, “over exploitation” of ground water (Table 5) and consequent problems like
fall in water table and increased salinity of water, pollution due to dumping of untreated waste
into the Periyar (to the tune of 260 million lit/day of factory effluents), by the “rogue” industries
in the Kochi industrial belt.

Admittedly large parcels of wetland (both in the coastal land and inland) have been facing a
fast rate of conversion by filling to make better quality dry-land for various purposes. Wetlands
play important roles by supporting mangrove forests, providing an ideal spawning ground for
certain species of fish, retaining finer sediment and nutrients originating in the upland areas
from escaping into the ocean

According to CWRDM report, water quality of surface water sources, does face a serious
threat due to bacterial pollution and it may perhaps be a result of the high density of
population. We may keep in mind that population grew from little more than one crore to over
3 crores in a span of 50 yr. and such growth in population did bring in certain opportunities
and challenges to Kerala. Locally, there are many “troubled areas” due to dumping of solid
waste, bathing and washing clothes and discharge of effluents.

Being a farming state with huge land area under plantation crops and a closely similar extent
under annuals and seasonal crops, farm residues of agricultural chemicals pose a severe
problem to the water bodies like ponds, streams, rivers, lakes and lagoons as well as the
coastal ocean.

An immediate manifestation copious supply of plant nutrients is eutrophication of small and

large water bodies across the state. Due to this ponds and lakes slide into a phase where
large aquatic weeds like rooted reed grass and floating types like salvenia and water
hayacyinth establish extensively and their death and decay steeply reduces dissolved oxygen
in the water. With fall in oxygen level, aquatic life like a host of fish species and other
crustaceans also sharply declines resulting in “death” of water body.

A moderation in application of agrochemicals and reduction of the quantum of farm residues

is a right step forward in saving the water resource and aquatic life in the water bodies of
Kerala. Water transport sector gets a beating due to eutrophication as “green turf” on the
water surface makes the cruising very expensive in terms of per-nautical-mile-consumption of
fuel and maintenance of propeller and other drive mechanisms in contacting the water

Animal farms are known to produce huge volumes of solid and liquid excrements, which most
of the time are conventionally stored in a pit, for later use in agri-farms. Interestingly a recent
story in “Newsweek” states that genetically modified pigs are much more environment friendly
than normal pigs. Excrement of the latter, in comparison with GM-pigs, contains very high
levels of phosphate, a plant nutrient and an agent promoting eutrophication.

Results of a study recently released by CSE, New Delhi, points finger at the status of human
health (higher than average incidence of cancer) among some settlers in the lakeshore belt in
Kochi. According to CSE report, dumping (sometimes clandestine) of untreated industrial
effluents (liquid and solid) into the waters of the Periyar and Vemanad lake, is the cause of
this malady. Yet another serious threat to aquatic environment is posed by indiscriminate
discharge of untreated sewage directly into coastal lagoons and wetlands of Kuttanad by
settlers along the shores. Though, studies on the nitrate and coliform levels are not many,
sooner than later we must be harvesting the negative benefits. Undoubtedly surface water
bodies and aquifers stand to loose.

But the catastrophe that struck the larger and smaller rivers of Kerala due to extensive
borrowing of channel bed sand, followed by paleochannel sand (as it happens now) for use in
construction industry. Right from mid-seventies, the construction sector has been recording
steady growth and one of the primary ingredients in making concrete and cement mortar is
fine aggregate, which, our designers and contractors equated with river sand. As sand supply
fell short of demand, any patch of land with a possible potential for a reserve of sand, is
targeted now, even illegally.

Unfortunately, the environmentalists who are very vocal in the issue of saving rivers and its
ecosystem fail to suggest a viable alternative. The logical alternative is the manufacturing of
sand or fine aggregate just like coarse aggregate, from rock using large crushing and sizing
plants. Sadly, even manufactured sand is frowned by nature lovers and river ecologists.
What every one should keep in mind is that by natural-chemical-weathering of one unit
volume of the basement rock in Kerala, can result in 1/3 volume of fine aggregate or sand and
takes about a million years.

Removal of flood plain mud for making tile and brick, another product in great demand in the
construction business, has also transformed vast patches of wetland or paddy-land into
scarred patches with wide and deeper holes, affecting the ground water regimen of the
terrain. Though very late, large scale entry of cement bricks as a viable substitute, especially
due to scarcity of good quality red-bricks and for want of standard-brick-quality-mud, has
come in to save the situation. Unfortunately, the debut is quite late.

Urban and suburban sectors of the state produce large volumes of solid waste and invariably
waste is dominated by plastic bags of various descriptions, tin and plastic cans (used to
supply medicines, paint and solvents), demolition and construction waste and biodegradable
kitchen waste of vegetables and meat. Plans and funds to build plants to convert the
biodegradable waste to organic manure faces very stiff resistance from the local citizenry,
where ever such a proposal is unveiled. In the light of objections, a different model of waste
treatment like high temperature incineration can be considered, especially when a captive
steam generator becomes part of the process.

New initiatives

Unless a concerted effort is initiated, we may very likely to face, a run-away-slide in

environmental health. Safe drinking water, clean air and a place called home are as important
to the citizens as getting quality and relatively cheap or affordable health care and education.
I will add drive against corrupt practices as part of the citizen’s wish list.

Safe drinking water for the villages and towns in the coastal land can come only by treating
water locally and piping it into the homes. Coastal land of Kerala hosts at least 9 large towns
and cities of the state and need supply of safe drinking water and the best alternative is to go
for plants based on reverse-osmosis-technology. For e.g., KMML is building a water treatment
plant, based on reverse osmosis, at an estimated cost of Rs.60.0 crores to supply a million
litres of water per day. Only the filters for the plant are imported fro Mitsubishi of Japan. Our
conventional mind will go for designing a dam-reservoir-pipeline complex at the upstream and
treatment-plant-reservoir-distribution system in the towns and cities. Instead of piping in water
from highland, it is time to think of local sources and green technologies. I am sure that govt.
would have included provision for reverse-osmosis-based-drinking-water projects in the
coastal development plan submitted to center for funding.

Contrary to the conventional format of waste treatment with the government, needing large
parcel freehold land in an already crowded space and uncertain market for organic manure, a
new model of waste treatment needs active consideration. The latter is high temperature
incineration of waste, where in a captive power plant can be installed. Such systems are
very ideal for sectors and regions of huge population density. Unfortunately, the elected and
appointed bureaucracy does not easily accept site specific needs and desires nor are they
experts in correctly proposing a cafeteria of choices when it comes to waste treatment or any
issue in which citizens are at interface with.

As far as construction sand is concerned, spurt in construction activity is bound to need

more of all material in construction including sand and metal. It shall not stop, even if that is
what we wish for. As long as there exist many more families without decent housing, the need
for mortar and concrete, i.e., fine and coarse aggregates and cement must be on the rise,
must be made available cheaply to keep the construction sector blooming. So, we have to get
sand from sea bed, from crushers, from cinder or slag of industrial smelters, manufacturing
plants etc. It is time for burial of one-material-one-source mindset.

Mining is a sector in which Kerala has not shined yet, primarily because of fewer
commercially viable mineral deposits. Chief mineral resources are Ilmenite sands of Chavara-
Kayamkulam belt, gold of Nilambur valley and china clay in Malabar in the north and
Trivandrum and Kollam dist. in the south. Unfortunately, lay citizen’s mind set is against all
mining activities, which is primarily due to fear of eviction form ones own land or being driven
from ones own sector of work. Unfortunately, neither the government nor the industry has n’t
so far explained to the public advantages of mining to the states industrial economy, newer
avenues and opportunities of employment directly or indirectly.

In fact, the mindset to mineral sand mining needs change as Kerala has one of the best black
sand resources in the world in the offshore. Black sand is deposited on the modern beach
face by the SW monsoon waves on an annual basis, by transporting a portion of seabed sand
from the vast reservoir of sand deposited in the inner shelf during the last 65 ma. According to
one estimate the worth sand, after mining and concentration, at to day’s price will fetch in
excess of Rs.40,000 crores in the next 30 yr. or at 10 or 5% royalty a whopping 4000 or 2000
crores of rupees, a portion of which can be used for building first rate townships for the
settlers in the coastal tract of Kollam and Alappuzha dist., and now sheltered in school
buildings or similar places to escape from the wrath of monsoon waves.
The human efforts in recently launched National Job Guarantee Scheme launched can be
focused to water-shed-based land and water management tasks so that water and soil
conservation can be successfully initiated and maintained for the welfare people.


In the foregoing I presented some random thoughts on the question of how humans have
impacted the environment, whose front office is the what is called biosphere. Many a times,
enthusiast, generalists and lay citizens seem to believe that biosphere is the beginning and
end itself.

Equally important are the other parts of the physical system of the earth, viz., lithosphere
(pedosphere), Hydrosphere (parts closer to and on continents) and atmosphere (lower

Being very dynamic any thing that goes into or comes out of troposphere and consequences
or advantages there of are “swiftly” and uniformly distributed (i.e., diluted) all across the globe
as a result of its very dynamic nature. It is no different in respect of pollutants entering it
either. The response of the system, there therefore is global affecting every one at its
interface with the other spheres.

Hydrospheric parts do make a huge difference in that it is less dynamic, so consequences are
more local and less easily dilutable. Though earth is known as a water planet, only about 2%
of all the available water is fresh and usable. And factors of climate and relief makes its
availability very much non-uniform across the continents and nation states. There is
practically no human activity that can take place in the absence of water, yet the advantage is
that across the spectrum, water quality need not be uniform. Water quality is an parameter
defined by at least 60 different attributes.

Pedosphere or the soil sphere is a direct derivative of the rocks and minerals making the
rocks of the lithosphere in direct contact with atmosphere and hence its component gases
including moisture, which shows wide variation in its content through the year and seasons.
These can enter even the cracks and interfaces between mineral (meta stable at surface
conditions) grains triggering chemical changes leading to the formation of more stable new
mineral phases and release of surplus and easily mobile chemical ions to liquid water to be
carried away to streams and oceans, which made the sea water salty and created soil for the
survival of plants and animals for their sustenance. . .

Size and activities of members (chiefly humans) of the biosphere, are directly reflected in the
water. Unlike other living beings, human ability, intelligence and initiatives are incomparable
to those of others in the biosphere. We have learned to control, transform, modify and
regulate large number of processes in the other earth spheres. Processes in the Earth-
system, including all subsystems, operate on different time scales, which are different totally
different from and majority of times inconceivable to humans. Truly, majority of humans have
ignorantly taken for granted the members of physisphere and the rates, magnitudes and
directions. This wide gap in knowledge between what we know of the earth system behaviour
on the one hand and our active and passive intrusions into earth system processes, perhaps
is the foundation of most of the environmental problems.

If you can not grow or buy it, you got to mine it – Chinese proverb tells us bluntly our need to
mine the resources on the surface, or deeper, in parts of lithosphere. Distribution of minable
minerals is far less uniform in the rocks that some continents and nations have more mineral
wealth than others. Any mining activity is an anomalous pursuit focusing on an anomalously
large natural concentration either on the surface or deeper below in the solid earth or
lithosphere, resulting a huge accumulation of waste. The latter will have deleterious and
occasionally unpredictable consequences to the biosphere through trough the medium of
pedosphere and/or parts of hydrosphere.
Yet, ingenuity of some humans is so great that has led to a system of checks and balances in
diligently mining the very urgently required resources carefully, causing very little or less
damage to the biosphere and physisphere. With this note of optimism, we, the majority can be
sure of the welfare of the prosperity of the posterity.

I sincerely thank Dr. V.R. Prakasam (course convener for identifying me) and Dr.
J.J.Kattakkayam (for the ambience).,

Anonymous, 2005, State of the Environment Report, KSCST&E, Trivandrum, 349p.

Fyfe, WS, 1974, Geochemistry, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Levinson, AA, 1974, Introduction to exploration geochemistry, Applied Publishing Co, Calgary

Livingstone, D, 1963, Chemical composition of lakes and rivers in the world, USGS Prof.
Paper, 440G, 64p

Meade, RH, 1987, Movement and storage in river systems, in Lerman, A and Maybeck, M,
(ed.) Physical and chemical weathering in geochemical cycles, Reidel Publishimng co.,

Menard, HW, 1961, Some rates of regional erosion, Jour. Geology, 69, 154-161
Subramonian, V, 1979, Chemical and suspended sediment characteristics of rivers of India,
Jour. Hyrology, 44, 38-55

Thornton, I, (ed.) 1983, Applied environmental geochemistry, Academic Press, 501p.

Thrivikramji.K.P., 1989, River Geochemistry, Final Report, SCST&E, Trivandrum, 56p.


Table 1 Common igneous rock forming minerals

(after Levinson, 1974)

Group Formula Minerals

Oxide SiO2, Quartz
Fe2O3 Magnetite
Feldspars NaAlSi3O8 Albite
KAlSi3O8 Orthoclase
CaAl2Si2O8 Anorthite
Pyroxenes CaMgSi2O6 Diopside
MgSiO3 Enstatite
Olivines Mg2SiO4 Forsterite
Fe2SiO4 Fayalite
Micas KAl2AlSi3O10(OH)2 Muscovite
KMg3AlSi3O10(OH)2 Phlogopite
Amphiboles Mg7Si8O22(OH)2 Anthophyllite
Ca2Mg5Si8O22(OH)2 Actinolite

Table 2 Major element geochemistry of sedimentary rocks

(After Fyfe, 1974)

Rock type Mineralogy Chemistry

Sandstone Quartz, feldspars Dominated by SiO2
Shale Clay minerals, Al2O3-SiO2-H2O
chlorites, carbonates
Limestone Calcite, dolomite CaCo3, MgCO3
Chert Quartz, hematite SiO2 (+minor Fe2O3,MnO2)
Phosphorit Apatite Calcium Phosphate
Soil Complex clay Al2O3-SiO2-H2O
Minerals, quartz,
Laterite Bauxite,Haematite Al2O3-Fe2O3-SiO2
Evaporite Halite, gypsum NaCl, CaSO4,CaCO3,

Table 3. Mean composition of average rain water and river water

(Livinstone, 1963)

Ion Rainwater mol/l Riverwater Mol/l

Cl 0.107 0.22
Na+ 0.086 0.27
Mg2+ 0.011 0.17
SO4- 0.006 0.12
K+ 0.008 0.06
Ca2+ 0.002 0.38
HCO3- 0.002 0.96
TDS(mg/l 7.13 130

Table 4 GHG emission in Kerala (SERK, 2005)

Gas Source Emission, Equivalent % of

Gg/yr CO2, tg/yr total
CO2 Petro-products, 19320.0 19.32 80.47
Fire wood & wetland
Methane Agricultural soils, rice 203.0 4.22 17.58
paddy, husk retting
rumination of animals &
Nitrous Agricultural soils 1.5 0.47 1.95

Table 5 Well-density and water yield in coastal

Districts (Nazimuddin and Basak, 1998)

District Well density Av. Withdrawal

no./km2 Lit/day
Trivandrum 235.0 680.0
Kollam 265.0 800.0
Alapuzha 183.0 1150.0
Ernakulam 156.0 1600.0
Trissur 153.0 2500.0
Malappura 200.0 1370.0
m 258.0 800.0
Kozhikod 162.0 1000.0
Kannur 100.0 1523.0
Appendix I
Protocol on collection and analysis of water samples, NOEF, GOI.
(afterENVIRO News,J-M,2006)
Baseline RIVERS & LAKES- A.Pre-monsoon: once-a-year followed by in an interval of 3
PERENNIAL months: Estimate 25 parameters listed under –
Four times a year. B.General: colour, odour,Temp.,pH, Turbidity, EC, DO &TDS
Nutrients:NH4-N, NO2+NO3 &Total P
3-4 times during active Major ions: Na, K, Ca, Mg, CO3, HCO3, Cl & SO4
flow period Others: F, B and other site specifics
Coliforms: Coliform-total and fecal
LAKES Outside pre-monsoon: thrice analyze for 10 parameters like:
4 times colour, odour, temp, pH, EC, DO, NO2+NO3, BOD, Coliform –
total & fecal
Trend/ Monthly from A.Estimate all 25 parameters in pre-monsoon samples
Impact / April / May; 12 times B.Only 15 parameters during rest of the year.
flux General: colour, odour,Temp.,pH, Turbidity, EC, DO &TDS
Nutrients:NH4-N, NO2+NO3 &Total P
Demands: BOD & COD Major ion: Cl
Coliforms: Coliform-total and fecal
C.Micropollutants: once-a-year
Pesticide: BHC, beta aand gamma BHC, OP-DDT, PP-DDDT,
Endosulfan(alpha, beta), Diedrin, Carbary, Malathian, Methyl
Parathian, Anilophos, Chloropyriphos
C. Toxic metals: As, Cd, Hg, Zn, Cr, Pb, Ni, Fe (select site
relevant parameters)

Appedix II: Scheme for collection and analysis of Ground water samples
(afterENVIRO News,J-M,2006)
Frequency Parameters
Baseline Twice/year Estimate 20 listed parameters
Pre-, & General: colour, temp, pH, EC, TDS
post- Nutrients: NO2+NO3, orthophosphate
monsson Demands: COD
Major ions: Na, K, Ca, Mg, CO3, HCO3, Cl, SO4,%Na and SAR
Others: F, B and other site specifics

Trend Twice/year April/May: Estimate 20 parameters listed above

Pre-,Post- Rest of the time – only 14 parameters
monsoon General: colour, temp, pH, EC, TDS
Nutrients: NO2+NO3, orthophosphate
Demands: COD
Major ions: Cl
Others: F & B
Coliforms, total & fecal

Micropollutants (site specific only)

Pesticide: BHC, beta aand gamma BHC, OP-DDT, PP-DDDT,
Endosulfan(alpha, beta), Diedrin, Carbary, Malathian, Methyl Parathian,
Anilophos, Chloropyriphos
C. Toxic metals: As, Cd, Hg, Zn, Cr, Pb, Ni, Fe (select site relevant
Appendix III Specification for Sample containers
(afterENVIRO News,J-M,2006)
Parameter Type Storage
4 deg. C
General Glass, PE
in dark.
4 deg. C
BOD Glass, PE
in dark.
COD, NH3, NO2, NO3
Glass, PE H2SO4, pH < 2
Coliform Glass, PE 4 deg. C
Sterilized in dark
DO BOD bottle DO fixing chemicals
Fluoride PE None
P Glass None
4 deg C
Pesticides Glass, Teflon
in dark
Toxic metals Glass, PE HNO3, pH < 2

Appendix IV Estimates of sediment yield corresponding to av.annual run off

(After Ursic,1965, USDA)
Landuse/ Av. Annual Run Av.annual sediment
Land cover off Yield, ton/ha or ton/acre
cm/yr or in/yr
Cultivted 40.0 (16.0) 50.0 (22.0)
Paustre 38.0 (15.0) 36.0 (16.0)
Abandoned fields 18.0 (7.0) 0.3 (0.13)
Depleted hard woods 13.0 (5.0) 0.2 (0.1)
Pine plantation 2.5 (1.0) 0.05 (0.02)

Appendix V: Volume rates of regional erosion

Ton/acre/yr Ton/km2/yr M3/km2/yr
1 0.55 135.85 51.264
2 0.50 123.5 46.60
3 0.74 182.0 68.697
4 0.10 247.0 9.32
5 2.62 647.14 244.2
6 12.00 2964.0 118.47
7 200.0 49400 18641.0

-Geologic (1) and modern (2) deposition rates in Mississippi basin- the rates are nearly same
-Deposition rates (3) in the Appalachian region in geologic past and modern day (4)
-Geologic deposition rate (5) in the Himalayan region and modern day rate (6)

Appendix VI Rates of continental erosion

(after Ritter, 1964)
No Type Rate, mm
1 Lowland, hot & moist, 33.0
Climate with dry
2 Equatorial climate 22.0
(dense rain forest)
3 Mountain/hot moist 92.00