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Environmental Degradation

  • Environmental degradation refers to deterioration of environment. It can occur due to any one of the following factors:
  1. Excess pollution.
  2. Depletion of natural resources such as water, soil, etc.
  3. Extinction of biodiversity or destruction of ecosystem due to natural or human-induced factors.
  • In other words, environmental degradation refers to any change or disturbance in the environment which is considered undesirable.
  • According to the United Nations, environmental degradation refers to reduction in the capacity of environment to meet social and economic needs of people.


Environmental degradation can be a result of multiple factors.

Social Factors


  • It is the most significant cause of environmental degradation. It causes degradation in the following ways:
  • Excessive consumption of natural resources such as water, forests, etc.
  • Excessive generation of waste.                              CAUSES OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION
  • Increase in environmental stress such as increase in pollution.


  • It is both a cause and an effect of environmental degradation. Poverty is a cause of environmental degradation. Due to environmental degradation, less natural resources are available with poor. Natural resources are the only resources available to poor.                                        CAUSES OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION
  • Poverty is also an effect of environmental degradation, because lack of natural resources has maximum effect on the poor sections of society.


  • Rapid and unplanned urbanisation creates large environment stress. For instance, high concentration of population causes heavy pollution in the urban areas.

Economic Factors

These include:

  1. Industrial development
  2. Transportation
  3. Agriculture
  • Excessive use of fertilisers and pesticides causes pollution. Excessive use of groundwater creates shortage of water resources.
  • At present, environmental losses are undertaken even for small financial gains. For instance, vital forests are being cut to procure timber for furniture and construction.
  • However, there are no effective estimates of financial cost which would be borne in the future to overcome the present environmental losses.

Institutional Factors  

  • Important legislations to prevent environmental degradation are:
  1. Environment Protection Act, 1986
  2. Forest Conservation Act, 1980
  3. Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has the responsibility of preventing environmental degradation.
  • The institutional mechanism suffers from the following weaknesses:
  1. The enforceability of environmental laws in India is weak, because the administrative system to enforce environmental laws is not adequate.
  2. Pressure of economic development often leads to side lining of environmental concerns. The Ministry of Environment is under pressure from other ministries to pass projects for economic development.                                                                                CAUSES OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION
  3. Environmental policy is not uniformly implemented in India. For instance, some projects with environmental implications are prohibited, but other projects with similar implications are allowed.
  • To bring uniformity in environmental policy, the MoEFCC has introduced the concept of ‘Go and No Go Areas’.
  • ‘No-go’ areas are regions, where no project clearances will be granted by the MoEFCC.
  • Hence, mining and other economic activities are not permitted in these areas.                                  CAUSES OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION
  • ‘Go Areas’ are those areas, where economic activities are permitted subject to certain conditions.


Environment & Biodiversity