What Are The Effects Of Degradation Environmental Sciences

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Around the world, a growing share of the devastation triggered by environmental degradation stems from ecologically destructive practices and from putting ourselves in harm's way. Many ecosystems have been frayed to the point where they are no longer resilient and able to withstand natural disturbances, setting the stage for 'unnatural disasters' - those made more frequent or more severe due to human actions. By degrading forests, engineering rivers, filling in wetlands, and destabilizing the climate, we are unraveling the strands of a complex ecological safety net.

Although the inherent links between disaster reduction and environmental management are recognized, little research and

policy work has been undertaken on the subject. The intriguing concept of using environmental tools for disaster reduction has not yet been widely applied by many practitioners.

With an estimated 26 million people in Southeast Asia live below the poverty line, environmental degradation continues to pose formidable challenges to poverty reduction and the achievement of the millennium development goals throughout Asia. The region is home to about half the world's terrestrial and aquatic resources; but alarming rates of deforestation,

degradation of reefs and coastal ecosystems, atmospheric pollution and depletion of freshwater resources continue to lock vast populations in downward spiraling cycles of poverty in which the poor pursue unsustainable resource management practices in increasingly fragile environments. The poverty cycle is exacerbated by frequent natural disasters. In all, 80% of the natural disasters worldwide occur in Asia; and of these, 80% are hydro-meteorological or climate related.

In the decade from 1991 to 2001, natural disasters affected over 1.7 million Asians, costing 369 billion dollars in damage to hard won assets. It is widely accepted that the poor are the most vulnerable; they suffer the highest number of casualties and have the least capacity to recover. Moreover, costly emergency responses divert limited funds from important environmental management and poverty alleviation initiatives.

Meeting the challenges of both environmental degradation and disaster risk remain high on the regional agenda and, more recently, researchers, planners and policy makers have come to recognize how intricately these two factors are related. The International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction concluded that "environmental protection, as a component of sustainable development and consistent with poverty alleviation, is imperative in the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters. Similarly, in 2002, a group of experts from the global change and disaster management communities met in Berlin and prepared a declaration that was presented at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

What is environmental degradation?

This is a term used to describe a situation in which a part of the natural environment is damaged. It can be used to refer to damage to the land, to water or the air. Environmental degradation can also mean a loss of biodiversity and a loss of natural resources in an area.

Environmental degradation is not a new thing, it has been happening all over the world for centuries. The problem is that it is now occurring at a much faster rate, therefore not leaving enough time for the environment to recover and regenerate. The greater demands placed on the environment by an ever increasing human population is putting a great strain and drain on the earth's limited natural resources. Environmental degradation is a serious threat to the lives of people, animals and plants, making it imperative that we stop further degradation from occurring. Types of environmental degradation There are many different types of environmental degradation. Some of the main types in Namibia are soil erosion, deforestation, bush encroachment, desertification and alinisation.

Environmental degradation is results of the dynamic inter play of socio-economic, institutional and technological activities. Environmental changes may be driven by many factors including economic growth, population growth, urbanization, intensification of agriculture, rising energy use and transportation. Poverty still remains a problem at the root of several environmental problems.

Types Of Environmental Degradation:-

Soil erosion

Soil erosion is the gradual wearing away of soil by either physical breakdown or chemical solution which is then transported away by

means of water, wind or ice to another location. Soil erosion is the leading cause of damage to our soils, leaving them barren and ultimately less productive. It can take centuries to create just a few centimetres of soil and only a few moments to destroy the same few centimetres. Today the rate of erosion has been speeded up by human activities. Consequently making soil erosion an

ever-increasing problem. Soil erosion results from the ways that people use the land. Practices such as tree felling cause deforestation, and can lead to soil erosion. The removed trees would usually guard the soil from rain and wind as their roots hold the soil in place. Additionally many land owners cut down trees to create space in which to plant crops and raise animals which

eventually can lead to soil erosion.

Soil Stalinization

This is a type of environmental degradation that is particularly common in naturally dry areas that undergo irrigation and do not allow for any fallow periods for the land to recover. Irrigation schemes are set up to provide a constant flow of water to drylands so that crops can be grown. However when irrigation systems are badly designed the results can be disastrous. The irrigation causes the water-table level to rise bringing natural salts to the surface. The salts cause problems as they restrict the root activity of the plant and therefore slow down its growth. In areas with high rates of evaporation the salts become even more concentrated. The final result is that the soils are too salty for plants to be able to grow in them and the degraded land has to be abandoned. Soils which have been affected by salinisation are very difficult and expensive to rehabilitate and often remain unused and abandoned.


Desertification occurs when productive lands are turned into non-productive desert as a result of poor land-management. This generally occurs in semi-arid areas such as Namibia.


This is the permanent destruction of indigenous forests and woodlands which results in a loss of natural resources as well as a protective barrier for topsoil. Today we can see all around the globe that the forests are being cut and new industrial areas are being grown up. This is contributing to the environmental degradation. We are cutting trees at a rapid speed but not planting them back which creates imbalance in the nature. That further results in environmental degradation. Continuous cutting of trees had lead to increase in the co2 amount in the nature which is also resulting in the depletion of OZONE and also in the melting of our precious glaciers.

Bush Encroachment

Bush encroachment happens where woody vegetation gets so thick that it threatens farming lands. Bush encroachment happens because woody vegetation and grasses have different growth rates leading the woody vegetation to take over and dominate a piece of land. Before the introduction of domestic livestock, the balance between grasses and woody vegetation would have been kept in check by fires and game. This would have resulted in an African savannah dominated by grass with only a few scattered trees.With the introduction of livestock the balance was upset. Most of the game was eliminated and selective grazers were brought in. Fire outbreaks have also been eliminated as far as possible due to human intervention. This means that grasses are heavily eaten but the trees which are usually controlled by fires, continue to grow. The result is a shift in the balance in favour of trees and woody vegetation.Since the growth of grass is limited the soil is largely left bare making it especially susceptible to soil erosion by wind and water. The deposits of nutrients are therefore increasingly found only under trees and bushes, making it difficult for grasses to grow. Eventually the grasses cease to compete for water and die out.Most of Namibia's best farming lands are bushencroached. As a consequence the land supports less and less livestock per hectare as the woody vegetation increases. It becomes more difficult for the cattle to move in or amongst the bushes in search for pastures.The majority of valuable nutrients and water in the soil are then taken up by the encroaching bush and the grasses cannot access them.The national beef industry looses about 34 000 000 tonnes of beef each year because of bush encroachment. This converts to be a N$100 000000 loss in beef production. More than 14 363000 hectares of agricultural land has already beenlost to bush encroachment. The landscape looses its appeal to tourists as it looses its biodiversity and beauty.

Loss of biodiversity

Loss of biodiversity is a reduction in the variety of plant and animal species. In areas where environmental degradation has

occurred there is often a loss of biodiversity as a result of the disruption to the ecosystem. However the loss of biodiversity itself can be considered a form of environmental degradation. The range of genetic make-up (plant and animal varieties) in a particular area can be considered to be a natural resource and is important in maintaining a healthy environment. The biodiversity of an area can decrease as a result of pollution, poaching, expanding agriculture and urbanization. Sometimes there is a direct reduction in the number of a

particular species which itself if being threatened, but more often it is as a result of a disruption in the ecosystem and food chain,

which causes a domino effect, effecting a greater number of organisms.

Social Factors Causing Environmental Degradation:-


Population is an important source of development, yet it is a major source of environmental degradation when it exceeds the threshold limits of the support systems. Unless the relationship between the multiplying population and the life support system can be stabilized, development programs, howsoever, innovative are not likely to yield desired results. Population impacts on the environment primarily through the use of natural resources and production of wastes and is associated with environmental stresses like loss of biodiversity, air and water pollution and increased pressure on arable land.

India supports 17 per cent of the world population on just 2.4 per cent of world land area. Its current rate of population growth at 1.85 per cent continues to pose a persistent population challenge. In view of the linkages

between population and environment, a vigorous drive for population control need hardly be over emphasized.


Poverty is said to be both cause and effect of environmental degradation. The circular link between poverty and environment is an extremely complex phenomenon. Inequality may foster unustainability because the poor,

who rely on natural resources more than the rich, deplete natural resources faster as they have no real prospects of gaining access to other types of resources. Moreover, degraded environment can accelerate the process of

impoverishment, again because the poor depend directly on natural assets. Although there has been a significant drop in the poverty ratio in the country from 55 percent in 1973 to 36 percent in 1993-94, the absolute numbers of poor have however, remained constant at around 320 million over the years. An acceleration in poverty alleviation is imperative to break this link between poverty and the environment.


Lack of opportunities for gainful employment in villages and the ecological stresses is leading to an ever increasing

movement of poor families to towns. Mega cities are emerging and urban slums are expanding. There has been an eightfold increase in urban population over 1901-1991. During the past two decades of 1971-91, India's urban population has doubled from 109 million to 218 million and is estimated to reach 300 million by 2000 AD.

Such rapid and unplanned expansion of cities has resulted in degradation of urban environment. It has widened the gap between demand and supply of infrastructural services such as energy, housing, transport, communication, education, water supply and sewerage and recreational amenities, thus depleting the precious environmental resource base of the cities. The result is the growing trend in deterioration of air and water quality, generation of wastes, the proliferation of slums and undesirable land use changes, all of which contribute to urban poverty.

Economic Factors

To a large extent, environmental degradation is the result of market failure, that is, the non existent or poorly functioning markets for environmental goods and services. In this context, environmental degradation is a particular case of consumption or production externalities reflected by divergence between private and social costs (or benefits). Lack of well defined property rights may be one of the reasons for such market failure. On the other hand, Market distortions created by price controls and subsidies may aggravate the achievement of environmental objectives. The level and pattern of economic development also affect the nature of environmental problems. India's development objectives have consistently emphasised the promotion of policies and programmes for economic growth and social welfare. Between 1994-95 and 1997-98, the Indian economy has grown a little over 7 per cent per annum: the growth of industrial production and manufacturing averaging higher at 8.4 per cent and 8.9 per cent respectively during these years.

The manufacturing technology adopted by most of the industries has placed a heavy load on environment especially through intensive resource and energy use, as is evident in natural resource depletion (fossil fuel, minerals, timber), water, air and land contamination, health hazards and degradation of natural eco-systems. With high proportion fossil fuel as the main source of industrial energy and major air polluting industries such as iron and steel, fertilizers and cement growing, industrial sources have contributed to a relatively high share in air pollution. Large quantities of industrial and hazardous wastes brought about by expansion of chemical based industry has compounded the wastes management problem with serious environmental health implications.

Direct impacts of agricultural development on the environment arise from farming activities which contribute to soil erosion, land salination and loss of nutrients. The spread of green revolution has been accompanied by over exploitation of land and water resources, and use of fertilizers and pesticides have increased many fold. Shifting cultivation has also been an important cause of land degradation. Leaching from extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers is an important source of contamination of water bodies. Intensive agriculture and irrigation contribute to land degradation particularly salination, alkalization and water logging.

Institutional Factors

The Ministry of Environment & Forests in the Government is responsible for protection, conservation and development of environment. The Ministry works in close collaboration with other Ministries, State Governments, Pollution Control Boards and a number of scientific and technical institutions , universities, non-Governmental organizations etc. 48. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is the key legislation governing environment management. Other important legislations in the area include the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The weakness of the existing system lies in the enforcement capabilities of environmental institutions, both at the centre and the state. There is no effective coordination amongst

various Ministries/Institutions regarding integration of environmental concerns at the inception/planning stage of the project. Current policies are also fragmented across several Government agencies with differing policy mandates. Lack of trained personnel and comprehensive database delay many projects. Most of the State Government institutions are relatively small suffering from inadequacy of technical staff and resources. Although overall quality of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies and the effective implementation of the EIA process have improved over the years, institutional strengthening measures such as training of key professionals and staffing with proper technical persons are needed to make the EIA procedure a more effective instrument for environment protection and sustainable development.

Inappropriate land use

Can lead to soil degradation. Bad farming techniques are often responsible for land degradation. Leaving fields bare, or ploughing them up and down the sides of a hill can cause severe soil erosion when it rains heavily as the soil has nothing keeping it in place. When the left over parts of crops and animal manure are ploughed back into the soil they serve to replenish and fertilize it. However, if the crops are cut to be fed to animals and the manure is burnt as a fuel, the soil will have no way of eplenishing itself, and decreases in fertility. Sometimes landowners make changes in the way they use the land in an attempt to make the land more productive, but often these changes damage the land and actually make it less productive.


It happens when a farmer does not allow a piece of land to recover in between plantings, exhausting the soil. Left unchecked this can eventually lead to land degradation as the land is being used in a way which is unsustainable.


It is when more animals than a piece of land can support are allowed to graze in that area. This can cause serious damage to the land. When too many animals are allowed tograze on a piece of land they eat the plants that hold the soil in place. Too many animals may mean that the grass is eaten down to the rootsfaster than it can grow back. This in turn leads to


It is also an important factor in causing environmental degradation. Soil can be damaged as a result of waste products and pollutants being deposited and left in it. When rubbish from factories, mines and households are dumped in the natural environment it pollutes the land and leaves its toxins within the soil. The soil is therefore unfit to support any plant growth or animal life. The increase in the global population has caused an massive increase in levels of waste and pollution, adding to increasing environmental degradation.

Foreign debt

Foreign debt often forces Governments in poor countries may to pursue policies and practices which are harmful to the environment

in order to keep up with their debt payments, such as intensive farming for export. These are important for the national economies of these countries but may take the place of traditional land uses which may have been more ecologically friendly and provide food for people to eat. As well as population growth, natural disasters such as floods and droughts and national emergencies such as war and political tensions can also add to the pressures which are placed on the land.

Some Solutions to Environmental Degradation


Planting trees over degraded land or a forestation can help to protect the soil from strong wind and from being washed away by soil

erosion. If trees are planted in rows along the edges of field they can be very effective in sheltering both crops and soil which does not

have crops in it. Soil salinisation and waterlogging can both be avoided by using drip irrigation which delivers only as much water as is needed to a specific area as opposed to high-pressure sprinklers which cause the soil to be permanently covered with water.

There are certain traditional farming methods which are better for the land and are more sustainable than some of the methods used by commercial farmers. Rather than monoculture (a practice which involves only the growing of one just crop type) which removes all of the goodness from the soil and leaves crops very susceptible to disease, mixed crops or crop rotation can be a good way to eplenishing valuable nutrients in the soil along with maintaining a high level of biodiversity in the area. Effects of overgrazing can be minimized by carefully stocking your land so as to ensure that it is not being grazed by more animals than it can support. It is therefore more likely to stay healthy and to be able to sustain cattle for a longer time.

Bush encroachment can be hindered through many processes:

• Bulldozing is one possible way of stopping bush encroachment, but it is very expensive and labour intensive. It is also

not always as effective as the manual felling of bushes since the trees soon regrow.

• Using fires is another method, but this too is also time consuming and labour intensive and not always effective at

killing the trees.

• Using chemicals is a very risky method of de-bushing as it is non-selective and kills lots of vegetation that helps to support the

ecosystem. It is also very costly and is likely to have long-term ecological implications.

• One group in Namibia, the Cheetah Conservation Fund, has developed a method of compressing the wood from the

encroaching bush into bricks that burn much longer and with more heat than normal wood. Therefore by using the

bricks you are helping stop encroachment,and gaining a useful source of energy

Social and Economic:

The mass effects of poverty can only be eliminated through the agreement and implementation of the World's leading

politicians. Without their commitment to end debt, make trade rules fairer, and give more aid to those countries in need poverty will not be eliminated. Politicians also need to sincerely address the pressing environmental problems that face our societies today, and again commit to policies that enforce the sustainable use of our planet.

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