With rapid globalisation the environmental issues are seen to be one of the most important topics. The pollution created in any manner such as air emission, effluent, land contamination etc. have several impacts on people, throughout the world.
It is expected that by the next generation about 90% of the world's additional people will live in towns, pace of urbanisation poses huge environmental challenges for the cities such as the problems of sanitation, clean water, energy and pollution from industry.
Adverse impacts of pollution
For many years it has been known that the quality of groundwater has been affected by increasing levels of nitrates and fertilisers that leak from agricultural lands.
Considerable quantum of groundwater pollution in the form of heavy metals, hydrocarbons and chlorinated hydrocarbons is reported in many countries. During the past 25 years, stricter water quality legislation in many countries has resulted in reduced pollution from point sources like communities and industry.
Air pollution can have both direct and indirect effects on the environment and on human health. Air pollutants that have considerable environmental impact include sulphur dioxide (So2), nitrogen oxide (No2) and carbon dioxide (Co2).
The local effects of air pollution include city smog caused by photochemical oxidants and nuisances caused by dust and smell. Other factors include toxic effects that can elevate lead levels in children, carcinogenic effects and other unwelcome health effects like respiratory problems.
Land pollution is the degradation of the earth's land through human misuse of soil. It is an accepted fact that as human influences such as poor agricultural practices, the digging up of important resources; industrial waste dumping has resulted in an irreparable damage to the land and has led to pollute the land rapidly.
This indicates that the disciplined approach of human behaviour plays a vital role in maintaining the cleanliness and prosperity of our earth's future.
However solutions to the land pollution have become increasingly recognised over the years. The most common and convenient method of waste disposal is considered as the sanitary landfill.
The danger of pollutant is that once the pollutants enter the environment those will cycle throughout the air, water and soil and continue to transfer from one medium to another.
Comprehensive environmental pollution system requires both pollution prevention and pollution control. Pollution prevention saves energy and resources, in most cases; it is more cost-effective than direct regulation in the long run.
At a time when economic competitiveness is a national priority, there is a need for an economically sound approach to prevent pollution.
However cost savings from prevention come not only from avoiding environmental costs like hazardous waste disposal fees but also from avoiding costs that are often more challenging to count, like those resulting from injuries to workers and ensuring losses in productivity.
In that sense, prevention is not only an environmental activity but also a tool to promote worker health and safety.
International standard for prevention of pollution
Considering the environmental issues taking place in the world, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) had initiated actions to prepare an international standard on Environmental Management to provide assistance to organisations that wish to implement or improve their environmental performance.
As a result in the year 1996, ISO 14001 standard on Environmental Management Systems - specifications with guidance for use has been introduced. The overall aim of this international standard is to support environmental protection and prevention of pollution in balance with socio-economic needs.
ISO 14001 - Environmental Management System standard requires an organisation to formulate an environmental policy and set objectives taking into account legislative requirements and information about significant environmental impacts.
Besides complying with applicable legislation and regulations the organisation must also demonstrate its commitment to continual improvement related to environmental issues of the organisation.
The standard is applicable to any organisation that wishes to implement maintain and improve an environmental management system, as well as those companies that seek certification/registration of its environmental management system by an external organisation.
Revision of ISO 14001
The second edition of this international standard ISO 14001:2004 is focused on clarification of the first edition and has taken due consideration of the provisions of ISO 9001:2000 to enhance the compatibility of the two standards for the benefit of the user community.
Moreover the new version of ISO 14001 provides organisations with the elements of an effective environmental management system that can be integrated with other management system requirements in an easy manner to achieve environmental and economic goals.
One of the important features of the new version is that it makes the guidance annexure more comprehensive and informative clarifying most of the grey areas of the Environmental Management System.
Therefore the new version would really help the organisations to proceed in establishing sound Environmental Management System to handle the environmental issues.
It is worthwhile to remember that the success of the system depends on commitment from all levels and functions of the organisation and especially from top management.
With the publication of new version it is now necessary to up-grade the already certified systems in compliance with ISO 14001:2004. However a transition period of twelve months is normally recommended by the international community.
Certification to ISO 14001
Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) has certified more than fifteen companies against ISO 14001:1996 standard.
In view of the publication of the new version, SLSI has already planned a series of training programmes to educate the business community about the changes made in the new standard.
Furthermore for certified companies SLSI intends to provide an additional gap analysis report during the surveillance audits in order to help the said companies to have a smooth transition to new version.
However if any organisation is having an idea to proceed in obtaining certification, it is necessary to develop an Environmental Management System (EMS) as per the new version of ISO 14001:2004.
Benefits of an EMS
An effective EMS can help an organisation avoid, reduce or control the adverse environmental impacts of its activities, products and services better assure compliance with applicable legal and other requirements and assist in continually improving environmental performance.
Having an EMS can help an organisation assure interested parties that:
* A management commitment exists to meet the provisions of its policy, objectives, and targets;
* Emphasis is placed on prevention;
* Evidence of reasonable care and regulatory compliance can be provided;
* The system's design incorporates the process of continual improvement."
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ISO 14001 procedures
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