When we talk about pollution, thermal pollution rarely comes to our minds. However, with the innumerable thermal power plants and industries mushrooming everywhere, thermal pollution is a real and persistent problem of current times.
Thermal pollution in the broadest sense can be defined as the abrupt change in ambient temperature of a natural water body by any human induced processes. The increase or decrease of water temperature degrades the quality of water and makes it unfit for consumption or the life-systems of aquatic organisms. It could happen in lakes, rivers, oceans or even ponds.
What are the sources of thermal pollution?
The major sources of thermal pollution are heated waste water produced from production and manufacturing plants – coal fired thermal power plants, natural gas plants, nuclear plants, textiles, paper and pulp industries, etc. These units utilize a huge amount of water as a ‘cooling agent’ in lowering the temperature of machinery such as generators and heat engines. Thus, water acts as an efficient sink for heat waste. The heated water is then released back to the source which is either a river or an ocean in most cases causing a disturbance in the thermal equilibrium.
Removal of vegetation or deforestation is another unpopular but significant source of thermal pollution. Vegetation, particularly trees, keeps the temperature of the water cool by providing shades to ponds, lakes, and rivers etc. In the absence of trees, the water bodies are exposed to more sunlight and absorb heat, which raises the normal temperature of the water. Also, soil erosion leads to a raise in the levels of water and shallowing of lakes and rivers which could increase sunlight concentration and warming of water.
Natural processes such as volcanic eruption or geothermal activities under the ocean or land could also increase thermal pollution. The lava (molten rocks) could lead to a sharp rise in the temperature of water.
Ecological impacts of thermal pollution
Thermal pollution is still widely seen as an insignificant problem when compared to other kinds of pollutions such as carbon emissions or solid waste. Many have contested the importance of production plants and industries over the potential ecological threat posed by thermal pollution.
The most vital requirement for survival of aquatic animals is the ambient temperature. A slight deviation from this temperature could bring a detrimental effect on the living organisms and their surrounding ecology. The following are a few important ecological impacts of thermal pollution-
Decrease in dissolved oxygen – Oxygen, like in the air is equally essential for aquatic life. The warmer the water the lesser is the rate at which oxygen is dissolved in it. Therefore, a slight change in temperature of water could lead to an anaerobic or oxygen deficient condition thus sabotaging aquatic life. Warm water also increases the rate of organic component decomposition which is an oxygen consuming process thus contributing to depletion of dissolved oxygen.
Most of the aquatic organisms have evolved in such a way that the enzyme systems are functional in a very narrow range of temperature called ‘stenothermic organisms’. A small decrease or increase of temperature may bring a ‘thermal shock’ which sometimes can lead to mass killings of fishes, plants, insects etc (Pollution Issues, 2017). Organisms such as mollusc, sponges, and crustaceans are eliminated easily at temperatures above 37° C (Techgape, 2017).
On the other hand, there may be sudden increase in metabolism of certain species and impetuous rise in numbers. This disrupts the stability of food chains and alters the species composition in the environment. Thermal pollution is also known to have an adverse affect on the reproductive system of aquatic animals (Conserve Energy Future, 2017).
Abrupt mass migration of species is another severe problem associated with thermal pollution. The change in temperature may force species to migrate to another habitat creating a hollow food web.
Corals are highly susceptible to temperature anomaly therefore thermal pollution from run-offs and effluents causes bleaching e.i the expulsion of its symbiont algae and subsequent death of corals.
As an example, it is estimated that, about 46 million adult fish, 2.4 billion eggs, larvae and young fish are killed annually by the effluents from the First Energy Bay Shore Plant on the Maumee River shoreline near Toledo, Ohio. Also, the Monroe Power Plant in Michigan reportedly kills more than 25 million fish each year (Sourcewatch.org, 2017).
Control of Thermal Pollution
A few scientific techniques that could be employed by any industrial units for controlling thermal pollution are – creation of cooling ponds, artificial lakes, and cooling towers. Cooling ponds is one of the simplest and cheapest methods where the heated waste water is stored in a pond before releasing it into the mainstream waterways. It gives enough time to dissipate the heat into the atmosphere through the process of evaporation. Likewise, cooling towers are installed in chemical processing power plants, steel mills, and other manufacturing processes where cooling of the effluent is required before discharge. It involves upward recirculation of a cascade of heated waste water through the towers into the air by evaporative processes. However, these methods are found to be effectively operating in small scale industries limited to the developed nations. Also, change in local meteorological conditions is a concern in cooling towers as large amounts of water vapour enters the atmosphere.
The role of government in controlling thermal pollution is very crucial in developing countries such as India concerning legal and abatement policy frameworks for wastewater treatment. This could be realised through stringent regulations and constant monitoring of effluent discharges from different industrial sectors.
Darknet, also known as dark web or darknet market, refers to the part of the internet that is not indexed or accessible through traditional search engines. It is a network of private and encrypted websites that cannot be accessed through regular web browsers and requires special software and configuration to access.
The darknet is often associated with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services, although not all sites on the darknet are illegal.
Examples of darknet markets include Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Dream Market, which were all shut down by law enforcement agencies in recent years.
These marketplaces operate similarly to e-commerce websites, with vendors selling various illegal goods and services, such as drugs, counterfeit documents, and hacking tools, and buyers paying with cryptocurrency for their purchases.
Anonymity: Darknet allows users to communicate and transact with each other anonymously. Users can maintain their privacy and avoid being tracked by law enforcement agencies or other entities.
Access to Information: The darknet provides access to information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable or censored on the regular internet. This can include political or sensitive information that is not allowed to be disseminated through other channels.
Freedom of Speech: The darknet can be a platform for free speech, as users are able to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.
Secure Communication: Darknet sites are encrypted, which means that communication between users is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties.
Illegal Activities: Many darknet sites are associated with illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services. Such activities can attract criminals and expose users to serious legal risks.
Scams: The darknet is a hotbed for scams, with many fake vendors and websites that aim to steal users’ personal information and cryptocurrency. The lack of regulation and oversight on the darknet means that users must be cautious when conducting transactions.
Security Risks: The use of the darknet can expose users to malware and other security risks, as many sites are not properly secured or monitored. Users may also be vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks.
Stigma: The association of the darknet with illegal activities has created a stigma that may deter some users from using it for legitimate purposes.
AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and understanding natural language.
Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are examples of virtual assistants that use natural language processing to understand and respond to users’ queries.
Recommendation systems: Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to recommend movies and products to their users based on their browsing and purchase history.
Efficiency: AI systems can work continuously without getting tired or making errors, which can save time and resources.
Personalization: AI can help provide personalized recommendations and experiences for users.
Automation: AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more complex tasks.
Job loss: AI has the potential to automate jobs previously performed by humans, leading to job loss and economic disruption.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data they are trained on, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
Safety and privacy concerns: AI systems can pose safety risks if they malfunction or are used maliciously, and can also raise privacy concerns if they collect and use personal data without consent.