Contributors to the degrading environment

The term ‘environment’ derives from the French word “environ,” which means “surrounding.” Environment includes both natural and atmosphere such as air, water, vegetation and extends up to the social system formulated.

Economic activities and environment

The discussion of the term ‘environment’ brings one to the age old deliberation arising from the economic growth actions leading the countries to choose profitability over sustainability. No country would be able to sustain growth indefinitely with environmental degradation. Hence it is imperative to understand the relationship between economic development and the quality of the environment in a country.

Hauff and Mistri (2015) assert that a growing economy requires large inputs of material and energy. It also generates large quantities of waste byproducts, leading to pollution. However, economic activities such as extraction of natural deposits are imperative for the growth of the economy. The extractions contribute to the accumulation of waste, increase in the concentration of the pollutants in the environment and degradation of ecology. However, to understand the extent of the damage to an economy, it is important to understand different types of pollution.

Types of pollution

Figure 1: Types of pollution affecting the environment

Figure 1: Types of pollution affecting the environment

There are primarily six types pollution based on the nature of pollutant added to the environment.

  1. Water pollution: This results from the contamination of the water. It occurs with increase in the concentration of elements in the water that should not be present in them naturally. Enhanced economic activities require large volumes of water. Its contamination is also leading to impairment of the benefits of water for both industrial purposes and human consumption.
  2. Soil pollution: This arises from the addition of harmful xenobiotic (manmade) elements of organic, inorganic, and chemical nature. It primarily increases as a result of economic activities, such as improper industrial waste disposal, agricultural practices of humans, urban waste accumulation, and the addition of biological, chemical, and other radioactive elements in the soil (Hasan and Foliente, 2015).
  3. Air pollution: It arises prominently due to the domestic and industrial activities. Air pollution is on the rise due to increasing use of fossil fuels in the various segments.
  4. Noise pollution: Human activities such as transportation and infrastructure development lead to noise pollution (Seto, Guneralp and Hutyra, 2012).
  5. Thermal pollution: It is the depilation of water quality as a result of the change in temperature in its ambience. Water is the largest available coolant that is accessible to the humans and is increasingly misused by heavy industries across the world, leading to change in its inherent properties and contributing to pollution.
  6. Radioactive pollution: The last category of pollution in the environment occurs due to the addition of radiation in the atmosphere arising from the activities, for example,addition of radio isotopes, nuclear weapon testing, and power plant sources (Hasan and Foliente, 2015).

Environmental Kuznets curve (EKC)

The Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) hypothesis was proposed by Simon Kuznets in 1955. It observes that as income rises in a country, the environmental degradation increases with it. However, once the country reaches a certain threshold in income growth, the degradation starts to decline. It is a trade-off between environmental sustainability and economic growth. Most prominent examples of this phenomenon are developing economies like India and China.

Figure 1: Kuznets Curve (Source: Hauff and Mistri, 2015).

Figure 2: Kuznets Curve (Source: Hauff and Mistri, 2015).

Factors contributing to pollution

Among the prominent factors disrupting the steadiness of the environment is overpopulation. The world population is around 7.5 billion and developing nations are the prominent contributors to this (World Bank, 2018). Additionally, the factors contributing to the destruction of the environment is deforestation. The conversion of forest into non-forest habitable land is increasing for the use of urban development. The shrinking of the forests leads to the loss of biodiversity and enhancement of the greenhouse gas effects in the world that can lead to other problems such as the rise of global temperature that can further lead to global warming (Bhattacharya, 2008).

Lack of planning in urbanization in the developing countries also contribute to increased pollution. Amidst rapid urbanization efforts, the pressure on agricultural land increases. Also, loss of vegetation and alteration in the land use pattern affects the carbon dioxide levels and the circulation of aerosols and water levels.

Additionally, human activities such as unchecked construction, increased usage of chemical effluents,  greenhouse gases (GHG), increasing use of fossil fuels and increase in vehicles are among the prominent factors that impact the environment. GHGs affect the climatic system as they act as a blanket and prevent the heat from escaping the atmosphere. A large concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere leads to increase in global warming, the rise in sea levels, disruption of the marine ecosystem, changes in agricultural pattern, and hydrological cycle as well (Bhattacharya, 2008).

Countering pollution

Pollution is a global issue and the world as a community is facing the worst effect of degrading the environment. Therefore, to control the ill-effects of pollution, it is essential that worldwide programs for pollution control are initiated. Participative efforts such as fixed cost sharing, research and education advocating efforts for limiting pollution can lead to the adoption of preventive strategies for pollution. The policymakers specifically in the developing countries need to enhance their pollution control measures (Hauff and Mistri, 2015).


Type of environment protection activity

Air Pollution Prevention through in process modification in the industries.
Treatment of exhaust gases being released into the atmosphere.
Water Pollution Prevention through in process modification in the industries.
Waste water treatment.
Soil Pollution Prevention of infiltration of pollutant in the soil.
Prevention from physical degradation such as soil erosion.
Thermal Pollution Prevention through in process modification in the industries.
Noise Pollution Prevention through in process modification of  the sources.
Development of anti-noise techniques to be employed in industries.
Radiation Pollution Protection of ambient environment from radiation.
Maintenance through measures taken in treatment and transportation of radioactive material.

Table 1: Prevention of pollution.

Initiatives such as that taken by United Nations has brought 195 nations to work towards the common cause of combating climatic changes. The agreement laid down the central aim for collaborated efforts of keeping the global temperature increase in the century below 2 degree Celsius. To reach the goal the agreement will support the actions of vulnerable nations and developing countries. Moreover, the UN will enable technological and financial support to maintain a robust transparent framework regarding pollution control (United Nations, 2018).


  • Bhattacharya, S. (2008) Environmental Psychology. 1st edn. New Delhi: Global Vision Publishing House.
  • Hasan, S. and Foliente, G. (2015) ‘Modeling infrastructure system interdependencies and socioeconomic impacts of failure in extreme events: emerging R&D challenges’, Natural Hazards, 78(3), pp. 2143–2168. doi: 10.1007/s11069-015-1814-7.
  • Hauff, M. Von and Mistri, A. (2015) ‘Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC): Implications on Economic Growth, Access to Safe Drinking Water and Ground Water Utilisation in India’, Global Journal of HUMAN-SOCIAL SCIENCE: E Economics, 15(1).
  • Seto, K. C., Guneralp, B. and Hutyra, L. R. (2012) ‘Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon pools’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(40), pp. 16083–16088. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211658109.
  • United Nations (2018) The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • World Bank (2018) World Bank Open Data | Data, The World Bank Group.
Pallavi Shukla

Pallavi Shukla

Research Analyst at Project Guru
Pallavi has completed her postgraduate in Management (Finance and Marketing). She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Bharti Vidyapeeth University. Prior to association with Project Guru, she has worked for 2 years in Financial Services company as a research analyst. She aims to develop her knowledge base across the subjects and intends to explore more learning opportunities.
Pallavi Shukla

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