A signal to climate change: Rise of methane

Rahul Ashem *

Organic waste disposal, paddy fields, livestock, wetlands and forests burning are the factors responsible for producing methane gas, the second most important greenhouse gases after carbon dioxide.

Travelling towards the capital Imphal, the first warning sign is the sight of stench and ugly garbage dumped, sometimes overflowing from drains or floating on the surface of Khwairamband bazaar, the surrounding leikai's or the pollution impacted river of Nambul and Imphal turels.

The unpleasant smell of adjoining Ima's Keithel poses a threat to the Ima's vendor, public and the surrounding human existence. The problem is likely to increase as both the turels are considered as the primary source of environmental degradation in any part of the city. It increases the pollution level of the surrounding environment due to the increase of kitchen food waste, an increase in plastics materials through the growth of their use for packaging and an increase in yard wastes as burning has ceased to be allowed by most communities including the organic components like (Vegetables, Textiles, Card board) and inorganic components (Glass, Tin, Aluminum).

The result leads to contamination of drinking water and chances of spreading the water borne diseases (Malaria, Dengue) and its adverse impact on human environment. Recently, the temperature rise in the state is increases resulting in the shifting of rainfall pattern like sudden rains, hailstorms, flash floods or even drought at some point of time.

The shifting of horticultural cultivation in the hills, low percentage of rice yields and incidences of new diseases is another unprecedented transformation of nature by mankind. As a result, serious issues like hunger, low income and livelihoods affecting human survival and well being can predict in the coming future.

Scientifically, it is proved that the rise in dumping waste materials, temperature or even deforestation leads to a sudden change in climate primarily known as the Climate change. Certain areas is likely to experience the adverse effects of climate change, of which some are potentially irreversible; in some cases certain impacts are likely to be beneficial as well.

Climate change is the most severe problem in the present scenario. The change in climate is due to the increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions that contributed to the increase in global temperatures. The Green house gases (Carbon dioxide, Methane, water vapor, nitrous oxide and other gases) are naturally present in the troposphere absorbing the infrared radiation and reradiate back toward the surface, other gases present (Nitrogen, Oxygen) in the troposphere do not.

The phenomenon is known as the "Greenhouse effect" because the atmosphere is loosely comparable to the glass of a greenhouse that transmits sunlight while trapping heat inside. The trapped heat is reflected back to earth and the temperature of the earth's surface rises. The greenhouse effect is a natural atmospheric process.

Using of practices such as burning of fossil fuels, waste disposal, agriculture, livestock, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), grassland conversion and deforestation leads to an unnatural increase in greenhouse gases levels and an absence of carbon sinks. This resulted in subsequent alteration of the earth's temperatures.

It is also calculated that the global climate is dependent on earth concentration of greenhouse gases. If these concentrations increase or decrease, the climate will change accordingly. Rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are of great concern to scientists and policy makers because they trap infrared radiation that is emitted by the earth's surface.

Potential consequences of elevated carbon dioxide concentrations include a warming of the earth's surface and an alteration of plant and physiological function and ecosystem services. In due comparison with carbon dioxide, methane is another effective green house gas, smaller in concentration than the carbon dioxide level.

It is one of the significance greenhouse gas produced from the organic waste disposal, illegal dumping, leaching, paddy fields, livestock, wetlands, natural gas and forests burning. Methane contributes to climate change and global warming.

Organic waste disposal is one of the contributors of methane emissions. Materials that are organic in nature such as plant materials, food scrapes, convert starch or sugary agricultural feed stock are responsible for the production of methane gas. Every time you breathe, you surely inhale a few traces of methane, an important greenhouse gases on the planet. Methane is one carbon molecule surrounded by four hydrogen molecules.

It is colorless, odorless and tasteless. When organic waste decomposes, carbon dioxide and methane is created. Methane is formed when there is absent of air whereas carbon dioxide is the natural product when anything rots in air, it rises. The presence of methane depends on the qualities and quantities of waste and waste disposal methods chosen.

The proportion of methane captured, rather than emitted to the atmosphere is dependent on the total waste deposited. The illegal dumping of waste disposal on the Porompat area leading to DC way is one of the biggest problems in ecology minded society of today. Such deposition is probably the problem related to plastic bags. The deposition of waste materials and plastics on Sekmai turel is another example for the same. Nevertheless, all plastic is toxic is nature which affects the food supply in living organisms.

Plastic contain the toxic materials dioxin, an endocrine disruptor, or so-called gender-bender pollutant affecting the food chain system, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals. Inorganic waste present in the waste disposal is harder to decompose and difficult to sequestered carbon in the atmosphere. However, the presence of organic matter (decreases by composting or combustion) has possible chances of methane emissions (decreased or increased).

The highly combustible methane energy or so called langmei thanbi is form from the organic waste resources, can be capture and convert into energy for additional uses. Loktak Lake, the only fresh water lake in the North Eastern region is become degradable due to the deposition of waste materials from different river sources, poses a threat to the surrounding human existence through basic necessities, recreation and the ecological functions.

The slow changes in the lake disrupt the normal association of plants and animals, allowing the spread and dominance of weedy and exotic species (Paragrass), resulting a threat to Rucervus eldi eldi, the only deer species found in the floating islands of Keibul Lamjao National Park. Sudden changes may change the biological chaos and disrupt the surrounding environment.

Agriculture occupies the most important position in the economy of the state. It is another significant sector for the source of livelihood of the local people. Scientist suggests the rise of atmospheric methane, comes from the conventional agriculture by reducing the amount of carbon stored in the soil and vegetation.

Rice cultivation is a major factor for the production of methane emission. The warm, waterlogged soil of rice field is an ideal condition for the formation of methane by microbes known as methanogens (methanogenesis). The produced methane is oxidized by the process methanotrops in the shallow water and the rest is released in the atmosphere.

The emission of methane is also depends on several parameters like water management, fertilizer type, soil type and cultivar. The methane emission is the net result of opposing bacterial processes, production and consumption in aerobic microenvironments, both of which can be found side by side in flooded paddy soil. Degradation of forests and shifting cultivation also degrades the ecological balance leading to global warming by increasing the methane level and decreasing the oxygen percentage in the atmosphere.

Globally, livestock is another emitter of methane source. It produces 65% of human induced nitrous oxide and 37% of human induced methane.

Methane is more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide, making it one of the most potent green house gases contributing to global warming. At the same time, it is an important fuel source that produces fewer green house gases when it is burned than coal or oil. Enhancing the natural process is one of the best techniques in mitigating the atmospheric levels of green house gases.

Mitigation policies must be taken up in agriculture, livestock and waste sectors to reduce the emission of methane gas in most of the high emitting regions. Moreover, the government must notify the prohibition of solid waste disposal in cities, towns and urban areas. If possible, house to house collection must be organized through methods like collection on regular pre informed timing and scheduling.

Composting and vermin composting are successful but a very slow process and require large space. An open dump or an uncontrolled waste disposal area should be rehabilitated. In addition to climate benefits, reducing methane emissions could help improve human health and crop production through simultaneous reductions in ozone production. Methane mitigation offers rapid climate benefits and economic health and agricultural co benefits that are highly complementary to carbon dioxide mitigation.

* Rahul Ashem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at benthhook(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on June 16, 2017.

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