Department of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology of the RWTH Aachen University

Status of Soil Contamination in India

Soils are critical environment where rock, air and water interface. Consequently, they are subjected to a number of pollutants due to different anthropogenic activities (Industrial, agricultural, transport etc.) (Facchinelli et al., 2001; Jonathan et al., 2004). The chemical composition of soil, particularly its metal content is environmentally important, because toxic metals concentration can reduce soil fertility, can increase input to food chain, which leads to accumulate toxic metals in food stuffs, and ultimately can endanger human health. Because of its environmental significance, many studies to determine risk caused by metal levels in soil on human health and forest ecosystem have attracted attention in recent years (Denti et al., 1998; Sandaa et al., 1999; Arantzazu et al., 2000; Krzyztof Losk et al., 2004).

Heavy metals are naturally occurring in our earth’s crust. Many of these elements are biologically essential and are introduced into aquatic enrichments by various anthropogenic activities (Omar et al., 2004). Main anthropogenic sources of heavy metals exist in various industrial point sources e.g., present and former mining activities, foundries, smelters and diffuse sources such as piping, constituents of products, combustion of by products, traffic, industrial and human activities (Nilgun et al., 2004).

In India, many urban and dense cities with significant industrial waste generation have been found to have contaminated soil. Many studies have been done in this field.

Govil et al (2001) carried out a geochemical investigation in and around the Patancheru industrial development area of Andhra Pradesh, just north of Hyderabad city, to determine the extent if chemical pollution in the soil. Their data revealed significant contamination, showing two to three times higher levels of toxic elements than normal. Heavy metals like Cr, V, Fe, As, Cd, Se, Ba, Zn, Sr, Mo and Cu were found to be present above normal distribution in the soil.

Singh et al. (2002) in their study collected and analyzed freshly deposited stream sediments from six urban centres of the Ganga river plain for heavy metal contamination and a general view of sediment quality. In their results, stream sediments from Lucknow, Kanpur, Delhi and Agra were classified as highly polluted to dangerous sediments.

Krishna and Govil in 2004 collected soil samples from the Pali Industrial area, present in the western state of Rajasthan. Their data revealed that the soil in the study area is significantly contaminated with high concentrations of heavy elements like Pb, Cr, Cu, Zn, Sr and V.

Krishna and Govil also did a similar study in 2007 and collected soil samples from the industrial area of Surat city, present in the western state of Gujarat. Their data revealed that the soil in the study area is significantly contaminated with high concentrations of heavy elements like Ba, Cu, Cr, Co, Ni, Sr, V and Zn.

Similar studies have been done in area around Varanasi (Sharma et al. 2007). In this study, soil samples of major irrigation sites in sub-urban areas of Varanasi were taken and analyzed for heavy metal contamination. Samples of irrigation water and portion of vegetables being grown were also collected. Apart from concentration of Cd, rest of the heavy metals was present within the Indian standards.

Lokeshwari and Chandrappa (2006) did a similar study in and around the city of Bangalore, where they assessed the heavy metal contamination of vegetation and soil due to irrigation with sewage-fed lake water on the agricultural land. The results showed significant amount of heavy metals, above the Indian Standard limits in both the soil as well as the vegetation samples.


Arantzazu, U., Vega, M., & Angul, E. (2000). Deriving ecological risk based soil quality values in the Barque country. The Science of the Total Environment, 247, 279–284.

Denti, B., Cocucci, S.M., & Di Givolamo, F. (1998). Environmental pollution and forest stress: a multidisciplinary approach study on alpine forest ecosystems. Chemosphere, 36, 1049–1054.

Facchinelli, A., Sacchi, E., & Malleri, L. (2001). Multivariate statistical and GIS-based approach to identify heavy metal sources in soils. Environmental Pollution, 114, 313–324.

Govil, P.K., Reddy, G.L.N., & Krishna, A.K. (2001). Contamination of soil due to heavy metals in the Patancheru industrial development area, Andhra Pradesh, India. Environmental Geology, 41, 461-469.

Jonathan, M.P., Ram Mohan, V., & Srinivasalu, S. (2004). Geochemical variation of major and trace elements in recent sediments of the Gulf of Mannar the southeast coast of India. Environmental Geology, 45(4), 466–480.

Krishna, A.K., & Govil, P.K. (2004). Heavy metal contamination of soil around Pali Industrial Area, Rajasthan, India. Environmental Geology, 47, 38-44.

Krishna, A.K., & Govil, P.K. (2007). Soil contamination due to heavy metals from an industrial area of Surat, Gujrat, Western India. Environmental Monitoring Assessment, 124, 263-275.

Krzyztof, Loska, Danutta, Wiechua, & Irena, Korus. (2004). Metal contamination of farming soils affected by industry. Environment International, 30(2), 159–165.

Lokeshwari, H., & Chandrappa, G.T. (2006). Impact of heavy metal contamination of Bellandur Lake on soil and cultivated vegetation. Current Science, 91(5), 622-628.

Nilgun, Guvenc, Omar, Alagha, & Gurdal, Tencel. (2004). Investigation of soil multi-element composition in Antalya, Turkry. Environmental International, 29, 631–640.

Omar, A., & Al-Khashman. (2004). Heavy metal distribution in dust, street dust and soils from the work place in Karak Industrial Estate, Jordan. Atmospheric Pollution, 38, 6803– 6812.

Sandaa, R.A., Enger, O., & Torsvik, V. (1999). Abundance and diversity of archae in heavy-metal-contaminated soils. Applied Environmental Microbiology, 65, 3293– 3297.

Sharma, R.K., Agrawal, M., & Marshall, F. (2007). Heavy metal contamination of soil and vegetables in suburban areas of Varanasi, India. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 66(2), 258-266.

Singh, M., Müller, G., & Singh, I.B. (2002). Heavy metals in freshly deposited stream sediments of rivers associated with urbanization of the Ganga Plain, India. Water Air and Soil Pollution, 141, 35-54.


  2. Hello sir!
    Searching for some heavy metal standards in agricultural soil, i stumbled upon your article. Could you please guide me regarding this matter as neither the Indian nor the International standards are available on net.
    I’ll be highly obliged.
    Thank and Regards.

  3. *Thanks

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