Dimensions of Pollution

Land & Soil

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Major industrial accidents and extended industrial mismanagement, especially in the extractive industry, can pollute enormous areas of land. Contaminated soil can lead to contaminated crops and produce, which have direct and immediate impacts on human health. 

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Healthy soils regulate water flow, filter pollutants, cycle nutrients, and support plant and animal diversity and productivity.

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UN Environment launched the first nationwide soil pollution project in Serbia in September 2016. The project will produce a national map of contaminated areas; facilitate the accreditation of a national laboratory where soil samples can be assessed; and train government officials on how to collect data from contaminated sites. In partnership with Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, we have also assessed the environmental and health risks related to land and soil pollution in Iraq’s Mosul region.


We have conducted similar reviews in Nigeria’s Ogoniland region, which has suffered from decades of industrial mismanagement. Based the results of this review, the Government of Nigeria launched a massive clean-up campaign in 2016. In Sierra Leone, we coordinated the clean-up of more than 16,000 litres of toxic tetraethyl lead that had been discarded next to a community garden. And in Côte d’Ivoire, we are conducting an independent environmental assessment of sites affected by the “Probo Koala” toxic waste dump. The fieldwork included sampling of soil, water, air, vegetation, shellfish and sediment from the dumping sites and their surroundings, as well as from locations where contaminated materials were stored or treated.



Get more details on pollution in our background report, Towards a pollution-free planet.