Difference Between Pollution and Degradation

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 02, 2022


Difference Between Pollution and Degradation Difference Between Pollution and Degradation

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“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”- Ban Ki-moon

The human population has expanded in the last centuries. This means that demand for food, water, housing, power, roads, autos, and a variety of other goods will rise. These demands are putting immense strain on our natural resources, as well as contributing to air, water, and soil pollution. The need of the hour is to prevent the destruction and depletion of our valuable natural resources, as well as pollution, from interrupting the development process. Environmental degradation is one of the ten risks listed by the United Nations' high-level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Deterioration defines environmental degradation as "the reduction of the environment's capacity to meet social and ecological objectives and expectations." Environmental degradation comes in a variety of forms. The ecosystem gets degraded when natural habitats are destroyed or natural resources are exhausted. Environmental protection and environmental resource management are two approaches to addressing this issue. Mismanagement that results in environmental deterioration can also lead to environmental conflict, in which communities band together to oppose the forces that have harmed the environment.

The introduction of toxic components into the environment is referred to as pollution. Pollutants are the name for these hazardous particles. Natural pollutants like volcanic ash are created by the environment. They can also be caused by human acts such as trash or factory discharge. Pollutants impact negatively on the ecosystem by polluting the air, water, and land. Many things that are beneficial to people are detrimental to the environment. Pollutants are released into the atmosphere by automobiles through their exhaust pipes. When coal is used to generate energy, it pollutes the air. Industries and homes produce garbage and sewage, which can pollute the land and water. Pesticides, which are harmful compounds used to kill weeds and insects, pollute streams and cause harm to wildlife. All living beings, from single-celled microbes to blue whales, thrive on the Earth's supply of air and water. When these reserves become tainted, everyone is affected.

Environmental degradation is a process in which the natural environment is harmed in some way, resulting in a decrease in biological variety and overall environmental health. This process can be entirely biological, or it can be accelerated or instigated by humans. Many international organizations identify environmental degradation as one of the biggest concerns confronting the globe, because humans have only been given one Earth to work with, and if the ecosystem is irrevocably damaged, it could spell the end of humanity.

Key difference between pollution and degradation

Pollution is defined as a state in which the environment has been harmed. It is either a polluting act or a polluted state. Pollution is a term used to describe a scenario in which the natural environment has been harmed. Pollutants of various types are to blame. Pollutants come in a variety of forms, such as chemicals.

Degradation is a term that describes a condition in which something has deteriorated. Degradation is the state of an object or subject as it deteriorates. Depending on the circumstances and the object or subject, it could be for any number of reasons.

Differences Between Pollution and Degradation in Tabular Form

Table: Pollution vs. Degradation
Parameters of Comparison
Origin of the term
Derived from the Latin word “polluere”.
Derived from the French word “degradare”.
Contamination, Fouling, Soiling, etc.
Deterioration, Degeneration, Debasement, etc.
The act of causing harm to the environment.
The process of becoming worse as a result of any circumstance.
It is commonly used to indicate a situation involving the environment or the destruction of any environmental resources.
It is not specific to any context, yet it may be used in any scenario.

What Is Pollution?

When pollutants are poured into the ecological environment and cause damage, this is referred to as pollution. Pollution can take the shape of any solid, liquid, or gas, or it can take the guise of energy (such as radioactivity, heat, sound, or light). Pollutants are either foreign particles or naturally occurring pollutants that contribute to pollution. Although natural processes can generate environmental contamination, the term pollution often suggests that the impurities have an anthropogenic source — that is, a source that was created by human actions.

Types of Pollution

Air Pollution

The discharge of chemicals and particulates into the atmosphere is referred to as air pollution. Carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and nitrogen oxides are common gaseous pollutants created by industry and motor vehicles. When nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons combine with sunlight, photochemical ozone and smog are produced. Particulate matter, often known as fine dust, is measured in micrometres and is classified as PM10 to PM2.5.

Water Pollution

Water pollution is caused by discharges of industrial wastewater from commercial and industrial waste (intentionally or through spills) into surface waters; discharges of untreated sewage and chemical contaminants, such as chlorine, from treated sewage; and releases of waste and contaminants into surface runoff flowing to surface waters (including urban and agricultural runoff, which may contain chemical fertilizers and pesticides; also including human faeces).

Soil Pollution

Soil pollution occurs when a range of chemical agents deplete the nutrients (and hence the fertility) of the soil. Soil pollution is caused by pesticides, insecticides, agricultural chemicals, industrial waste, and radioactive waste, among other things. Plants rely on soil nutrients to survive, yet many of these chemical constituents absorb the nitrogenous compounds that plants require. Soil contamination is a typical source of erosion, as plants and other life forms play an important role in holding the soil together. When they die, the earth splits and proceeds to decompose. Heavy metals that enter the soil as a result of chemical pollution have a destructive effect on the ecosystem because they disrupt the metabolism of soil microbes and arthropods. As these heavy metals migrate up the food chain, they grow more concentrated, often wiping out predatory or consuming species at the top.

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is defined as an excess of unpleasant sounds discharged into the environment by industry, infrastructure, heavy machinery, transportation, and even human activities. Noise pollution has been associated to elevated stress levels, hearing problems, hypertension, despair, sleep difficulties, and an increase in the prevalence of coronary artery disease in humans. Noise pollution also limits the number of viable environments for wildlife because it disrupts sounds and interaction, making it challenging for animals to navigate, mate, or detect predators or prey.

Light Pollution

Excessive, intrusive, and misguided use of light in human habitation and industry causes light pollution. Light pollution is defined as a shift in natural light levels caused by humans in both indoor and outdoor settings. Light pollution causes headaches, fatigue, concern, and anxiety, among other things. Light pollution disrupts ecosystems by making it more difficult for animals to navigate, altering predator-prey connections, disrupting plant growth and pollination, and altering competition interactions.

Radioactive Pollution

When radioactive metals disintegrate, beta rays are released, which can induce a range of mutative problems in living things. The nuclear power industry, as the name implies, is primarily responsible for radioactive contamination, either through the accidental release of radioactive compounds when a nuclear reactor is compromised or through the tossing or improper disposal of radioactive waste that ends up in bodies of water. When radioactive waste is dumped into the environment, it can stay there for decades, rendering enormous expanses of land uninhabitable.

Thermal Pollution

Several businesses generate heat as a metabolic end, and this thermal energy boosts global warming if discharged into the environment. Manufacturing companies discharge thermal energy into the air and into bodies of water. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can have a big impact on local ecosystems. The problem is caused by an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The heat from the sun, along with extra thermal energy produced as a by-product of many industries and vehicles, cannot escape because carbon dioxide prevents heat from exiting the atmosphere, raising the atmospheric temperature. The melting of the polar ice caps is due to global warming, which has resulted in a rise in sea levels.

What Is Degradation?

Environmental degradation refers to the disintegration of the earth or the deterioration of the environment as a result of the consumption of assets such as air, water, and soil, as well as the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife. It is defined as any alteration or aggravation to nature's turf that is deemed harmful or unwanted. The application of asset exhausting and polluting technology, as well as the centralisation of an effectively large and expanding human population, constantly broadening advancement or per capita fortune, and the implementation of asset gruelling and polluting technology, all have a natural effect or relapse.

Types of Environmental Degradation

Atmospheric Degradation

Air pollution causes atmospheric degradation, which is a major contributor to environmental challenges such as global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. Increased air pollution has resulted in health and environmental issues all around the world. Air pollution has a cascading effect, affecting the collapse of other ecosystems as well. Vehicle and industrial emissions are the primary sources of air pollution. Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons are the main components of the smoke produced by the combustion of fossil fuels in automobiles and businesses. The principal greenhouse gas that has contributed to global warming is carbon dioxide. The property of the carbon dioxide molecule to absorb and re-emit infrared radiation from the sun traps heat within the atmosphere. The increased acidity of ocean water is also due to the high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Another way that the environment gets degraded is when construction and mining industries release particulate matter into the air, such as dust, sand, and gravel. The presence of particulate matter makes it difficult to breathe and leads to the creation of smog over cities. Deforestation has resulted in a significant drop in the amount of vegetation on the planet's surface. Land clearing increases the risk of soil erosion and loss of fertility. One of the most significant consequences of fewer trees is a decrease in photosynthesis, the natural process of turning toxic carbon dioxide to oxygen. As a result, a bigger amount of carbon dioxide is now trapped in the atmosphere.

Water Degradation

The release of toxic compounds into water bodies causes water deterioration or pollution, rendering the water unfit for use by animals or people. A moving water body can be used to dispose of garbage quite effectively. This is the norm for those who live near bodies of water. This can be seen in numerous cities' drainage and sewage systems. Many companies dump their trash into a variety of rivers and lakes, which are also major contributors of water pollution. These industrial wastes are typically untreated and frequently include dangerous compounds that, when consumed, can be toxic to aquatic life forms, animals, and humans.

Soil Degeneration

The soil provides a suitable environment for the growth and nurturing of a wide range of plant species. It also serves as a home for a variety of animals and microbes that play an important role in maintaining the ecological balance. When the soil's composition is contaminated as a result of the disposal of hazardous waste or the usage of chemicals, it is harmful to the organisms that rely on the soil for their survival. When compared to other types of pollution, the environmental impact of soil pollution or land pollution is typically overlooked. One of the main causes of soil degradation is the disposal of garbage that cannot decay naturally, such as various types of plastic materials, Styrofoam, metal scraps, and so on. Agriculture, too, contributes to land deterioration, though it is generally disregarded. The loss of fertility can occur when the same crop is grown on the same plot of land. Crop rotation can assist to enhance soil quality and conserving natural resources, but it is not widely practised, resulting in a progressive decline in land production. When chemicals are used in farming as fertilizers or pesticides, hazardous chemical residues are typically left behind, which can eventually find their way into the food chain and pollute water. Aside from that, overgrazing on pasture land can cause it to lose its vegetation and fertility over time. Land degradation is known to be caused by deforestation. The loosening of soil caused by tree cutting or felling exacerbates soil erosion. Deforestation causes habitat loss for many animals, as well as the extinction of many animal and plant species.


Pollution and environmental damage, in whatever form, are a source of concern. Population expansion, inappropriate garbage disposal, fast urbanization, and a lack of sustainable development methods are the key factors contributing to this environmental hazard. Apart from the major categories of environmental degradation and pollution, we must also consider additional issues such as plastic pollution, hazardous waste and nuclear waste disposal, desertification, coral reef destruction, solid waste management, and so on. To maintain our water resources, keep water contaminants in check, regulate pollution, and take other actions to lessen the impact on the environment, laws and rules should be properly observed.


  1.  https://www.earthreminder.com/environmental-degradation-causes-effects-and-types/
  2.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_degradation
  3.  https://www.britannica.com/science/pollution-environment
  4.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollution


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"Difference Between Pollution and Degradation." Diffzy.com, 2023. Sun. 29 Jan. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-pollution-and-degradation-35>.

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