The Great Lakes also contain large amounts of 'polychlorinated dibenzo-furans - PCDFs' and 'polychlorinated dibenzo-dioxins -PCDDs' which are a result of the chlorine bleaching process of paper and pulp mills. In a nation wide study conducted for a period of 4 years on samples of fish and shellfish from various freshwater and marine water bodies in Canada, it was found that the fish from the Great Lakes were among the most contaminated samples. (Steinhart; Doyle; Food Research Institute, Cochrane, 1995) the paper and pulp industry has also grown with the growth of the economy. However, contaminant discharge from this industry still continues despite the various environmental measures taken by the paper and pulp industry of Canada. This industry has also caused disturbance to the huge boreal landscape of Canada. Approximately 50% of Canada's fresh water is located in these boreal forests. Developmental activities have affected these water bodies in terms of water clarity, oxygen content, nutrient and algae content, ions and buffering capacity, and aquatic organisms. The removal of trees for industrial activities can result in catchment disturbance which can impact the quantity and quality of the receiving waters. Since trees pull up water through transpiration, their felling leads to surplus soil water. This in turn leads to an increased water and nutrient export through overland as well as subsurface flow from the catchment areas following rainstorms and snowmelts. Ineffective forest harvesting techniques can also adversely affect aquatic systems. (Burton; National Research Council Canada; Adamowicz, 2005)
The slag produced from metallurgical operations in Canada has also been responsible for major environmental hazards. In Canada, it has been found that slag contains arsenic, lead and various other heavy metals, nickel, copper, cobalt and even radioactive elements in some places. It has been estimated that over the past hundred years, smelting operations in Canada have resulted in the huge production of ten million tons of waste slag. Because of the lack of economically feasible processes to process this slag, considerably huge amounts of slag have accumulated near smelters resulting in potential environmental hazards. Chemicals contained in this slag often leached into groundwater contaminating it. (Agioutantis, 2007); (Singer; Mernitz; Farthing; McKenzie; Johnson; Petty, 2007)
Despite its impressive environment conservation policies, Canada's overdependence on exploitation of its natural capital for economic development has been its undoing. Its reliance on extraction and export of natural resources is far greater than that of other industrialized economies with more than 25% of its GDP coming from natural resource exports. 10% of the total global forest cover is present in Canada and covers approximately half of its land mass. 21% of the global forest product trade is initiated in Canada. More than half of the global export of newsprint and softwood lumber comes from Canada. Approximately 20% of the world's zinc, 30% of its nickel and 8% of its iron ore comes from mining and extraction activities. (Lafferty; Meadowcroft, 2000)
Economic development has provided a better standard of living for Canadians and has also increased their consumption and possession of material goods. The large number of vehicles has resulted in a rise of air pollution. Emissions from vehicles like cars, buses and trucks can have a detrimental effect on our health as well as the environment. Even off-road engines like snow mobiles and lawn mowers add to these emissions. It has been estimated that in Canada, approximately thirty percent of carbon dioxide emissions emanate from vehicles. In Canada, auto emissions also produce 23% of volatile organic compounds and 19% of nitrogen oxides which, when combined, result in ground level ozone. Ground level ozone is one of the chief elements of smog. Auto emissions also produce 37% of the overall annual carbon monoxide in the air. Moreover, the combustion of sulphur-based and carbon-based chemicals in diesel and gasoline produce fine particulate matter of less than 10 microns which forms a part of smog. This FPM is what is deposited as soot. ("Pollution & air quality," 2008); (Labelle, 1998)
FPM can also build up in the upper atmospheric levels leading to climate change and other environmental effects. It can lead to severe health problems when inhaled into the respiratory tract. It increases the propensity of respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis and allergies. It lowers physical performance and stamina of people in the urban areas and decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of red blood corpuscles. Exposure to air pollutants has also been found to have a link with frequency of cardiovascular diseases and mortality. The four regions in Canada which are most affected by air pollution are the Lower Fraser Valley, Windsor-Quebec Corridor, Atlantic Region and Southern Ontario. In Lower Fraser Valley, around 80% of the ground level ozone is a result of tailpipe emissions. Other sources of pollutants comprising smog include manufacturing industries, electricity generating stations, incinerators, gasoline evaporation at service stations, and solvents like barbecue starters. ("Pollution & air quality," 2008); (Labelle, 1998)
Agricultural development also contributes to the economic development of the country but advances in agriculture entails the use of chemicals like pesticides. In Canada, agricultural area pollution constitutes one of the more problematic factors of environmental pollution. These pesticides can contribute to area source pollution and point source pollution. There are some pesticides which can break down quickly whereas some others persist and accumulate in the atmosphere for a very long period and sometimes break down into equally harmful by-products. Pesticides can be mobilized in the environment through soil, wind and precipitation. For example, huge amounts of 2,4-D, a herbicide, was found in the precipitation in Alberta. This was found to be due to the large-scale use of this herbicide by Lethbridge farmers. These pesticides get deposited in the waterways and the ground plants absorb them and thus enter the food chain and eventually find their way into animal fat. These pesticides do not remain localized but travel long distances with the help of wind currents. ("Pesticides in the environment," n. d.)
Wind currents, in combination with specific chemical and physical characteristics, carry pesticides and persistent organic pollutants -- POPs as far out as the Arctic region via a cycle of long-range transportation. Apart from the agricultural sector, households also use pesticides. It is estimated that two-thirds of households in Canada use pesticides inside their homes or on their pets or lawns. Pesticide concentrations of drinking water have been found to be in harmful proportions in agriculturally intensive areas like Prince Edward Island. Atrazine, one of the most commonly used pesticides have been detected in ground and surface waters of Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Quebec. ("Pesticides in the environment," n. d.) Technological developments in all fields have affected the environment in some form or the other in addition to contributing to economic development. Modern technology has made oil exploration and drilling easier and economical but at the same time marine seismic surveys have also disturbed marine animals. Oil spills like that from Terra Nova in 2004 threatened the marine ecosystem. Modern human activities like use of refrigerators and air-conditioners have also resulted in an increase of fluorocarbons and hydroflourocarbons. ("Section Five - Environment and Sustainable Development," n. d.)
Considering all these factors, Canada's efforts at sustainable development have been found to be inadequate. Successive governments in Canada have been criticized for a sustainable development policy - implementation gap. This probably arises because of the vertical division of authority both at the provincial as well as federal levels, between the departments entrusted with the responsibility for environment protection and the departments looking after resource and economic development. The problematic relationships between these departments and between governments, industry and environmental Non-Governmental Organizations or ENGOs have escalated the environmental policy implementation problems. (Lafferty; Meadowcroft, 2000) the Canadian government should contemplate incorporating energy reduction measures in building envelope design, transportation planning, technology development, design of urban form, and waste-water and water treatment. There should be a holistic approach towards sustainable economic development which considers progressive economic development with an eye towards conservation of natural resources. Along with economic development, equal stress should be given on viability in the long run and overall cost to the community with regard to environmental impacts. (Cuddihy; Kennedy; Byer, 2005)
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