Organic and Inorganic Pollutant Concentrations Suggest Anthropogenic Contamination of Soils Along the Manali-Leh Highway, Northwestern Himalaya, India

Abstract

Most studies on roadside soil pollution have been performed in areas where petrol is the main fuel. Very little work has been conducted in regions where diesel predominates. We collected soil samples from four sites that span a precipitation gradient along the Manali-Leh Highway in northwestern Himalaya, India. This road traverses rough terrain and most of the vehicles that travel along it are diesel-driven. At each site, we collected samples at incremental distances from the highway (0, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 150 m), and at each distance we collected samples from three depths (3, 9, and 15 cm). We assessed the concentrations of 10 heavy metals (Al, Fe, Cr, Cu, Pb, Ni, Co, Zn, V, and Ba), total sulphur, and total organic carbon (TOC) at each distance, and we measured the concentration of 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at 2 m from the highway. Overall, we found that metal concentrations are low and there is no relationship between concentrations and distance from the highway, or depth within the soil profile. Sulphur concentrations, on the other hand, are high in roadside soils and there is a negative relationship between concentration and distance from the highway. PAH concentrations are low, but the proportion of different ringed species suggests that their source is anthropogenic. Correlations between TOC and the various pollutants further suggest that diesel vehicles and potentially biomass combustion are starting to affect the roadside environment in remote northwestern India. We suggest that pollutant concentrations be regularly monitored.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Tom Algeo, Aaron Diefendorf, Sarah Hammer, Mike Menard, Alex Reis and Kunal Singh, for technical and logistical assistance. Howard Holmes and his staff at ALS Environmental in Kelso, Washington are thanked for performing PAH analyses. Finally, we appreciate the constructive comments by two anonymous reviewers and the editorial advice of Peter Ross and Richard Saint-Louis, which helped to improve the manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded by an Oak Ridge Associated Universities Ralph E. Powe Faculty Enhancement Award to B.E.C., a University of Cincinnati Research Council Faculty Research grant to B.E.C., and Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research to R.D. (Grant Number G20131015322038).

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Correspondence to Brooke E. Crowley.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest with any person or organisation. The funding sources had no role in the study design, collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

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Dasgupta, R., Crowley, B.E. & Barry Maynard, J. Organic and Inorganic Pollutant Concentrations Suggest Anthropogenic Contamination of Soils Along the Manali-Leh Highway, Northwestern Himalaya, India. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 72, 505–518 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-017-0396-7

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Keywords

  • PAHs
  • Diesel
  • Total Organic Carbon
  • Black Carbon
  • Diesel Exhaust