14 Common Environmental Issues in Developing Countries

The natural environment is vital to everyone’s health and way of life, but it is especially important to those living in developing nations. A wholesome environment provides food, drink, and air—all the essentials of life.

It also offers the tools to combat natural disasters and resources for economic expansion. The state of the environment and the opportunities it presents have a direct bearing on the well-being of developing nations.

In many developing nations, there is no escaping the presence of poor environmental quality. Longevity reduction and illness are potential effects of this pollution. Pollution’s negative health consequences can also result in reduced productivity and excessive medical expenses.

However, there is typically little investment made in underdeveloped nations to enhance environmental quality, despite the significant costs of pollution.

How come? Envirodevonomics, an emerging subject of economics at the nexus of environment and development economics, has this as its primary question.

14 Common Environmental Issues in Developing Countries

  • Forests, Wet and Dry Seasons, Trees, and National Parks
  • Deforestation
  • Desertification
  • Extinction of Species
  • Lack of Toilets and Sanitation in the Developing World
  • Toxic Materials and High-Tech Waste
  • Recycling
  • Dams in the Developing World
  • Air Pollution
  • Water Pollution
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Heatwaves
  • Loss of Agricultural Productivity.
  • Asthma and other Respiratory Diseases

1. Forests, Wet and Dry Seasons, Trees, and National Parks

Leucaena trees have a high value. They produce deep roots that stabilize the soil, grow three feet a year, supply nitrogen to the soil, provide animal food, and regenerate quickly if branches are chopped off for charcoal. The sole negative effect is that they cause hair loss in otherwise healthy animals that eat them.

Human encroachment on game parks, which are essential for drawing tourists and money, is a result of population growth. Of the 17,000 largest wildlife refuges worldwide, half are heavily utilized for cattle or agriculture.

People use park resources and reside in and near national parks. It is unenforceable to say that resources in parks are off-limits to touching.

There are dry and wet seasons in many regions. Farmers frequently have to wait for seasonal rains to moisten the ground before plowing during the dry season because there is so little feed for goats and sheep that households are forced to climb trees and throw leaves at their animals.

2. Deforestation

In deforested areas, trees are mostly taken down for fuel and to create space for farms. Large stretches of elephant grass, eroding gullies, and stony ravines have taken the place of forests in several locations.

The amount of fuel wood used is rising at a startling rate. Often, people are forced to clear trees to make way for new construction materials and firewood. There are no alternative energy or building supplies offered. The area was covered in woods during prehistoric times, but these trees have long since been felled.

Numerous people are killed by landslides and floods. The issue is made worse by loggers’ and locals’ firewood collection, slash-and-burn agriculture, and erosion and deforestation.

Both the creation of oxygen and the absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2) are accomplished by forests. These two mechanisms function less well and at lower levels when there is deforestation.

Deforestation processes also result in the loss of many animal and plant species’ native habitats, which may cause such species to go extinct.

Due to deforestation, large portions of the Amazon jungle have disappeared. Over 10,000 plant and animal species are at great risk of going extinct as a result, according to the Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA).

3. Desertification

Sociologists contend that because of the imbalance in trade with the West, farmers in developing nations are compelled to overfarm some crops. Food aid from wealthy nations also lowers the cost of regional foods in underdeveloped nations.

To make a living, farmers will therefore need to produce and sell a greater number of goods at progressively lower prices. This method depletes the land.

The process of overusing land to the point where it becomes unusable for cultivation and becomes infertile is known as desertification.

Desertification is what “created” the Sahel region of Africa. It’s also crucial to remember that, although the people of Africa were self-sufficient in food during the 1970s, 14% of them needed food assistance in 1984, a mere 14 years later.

4. Extinction of Species

The extinction of certain wildlife species is a serious environmental hazard brought on by the combination of deforestation, pollution, and desertification.

Species eventually die extinct when they are deprived of their native habitat, clean water, and food sources. 816 species have become extinct in the last 500 years, according to ecologists.

They assert that although decades ago the rate of extinction was relatively low, an average of 1.6 species became extinct annually in the modern era.

Among the most well-known species in jeopardy of going extinct are snow leopards.

The four environmental problems mentioned above, according to sociologists and ecologists, are only the worst ones. There are numerous environmental pressure points as a result of global expansion that need to be acknowledged.

5. Lack of Toilets and Sanitation in the Developing World

In the world, two out of every five individuals lack access to clean restrooms. They either use open pits or latrines that flush waste into the streets or just dump it in a nearby field in place of flush toilets.

Sewage is routinely poured straight into water supplies that people drink in areas with sewers because these areas lack waste-water treatment facilities.

Poor sanitation kills 1.5 million children annually, according to the UN. The majority pass away from diarrhea after consuming tainted water. The second greatest cause of death for children worldwide is diarrhea.

The spread of pneumonia, cholera, and intestinal worms is also attributed to poor sanitation. According to studies, supplying clean water has many advantages.

Healthcare costs decline. Individuals are more productive, live longer, and maintain better health. However, the political will to fund sanitation is sometimes lacking.

6. Toxic Materials and High-Tech Waste

Certain developing nations have turned into dumps for hazardous waste from wealthy nations. Reductions in practice are the result of increased attention to the issue on a global scale.

The main reason DDT is still in use in many underdeveloped nations is that it works well at keeping mosquitoes that spread the malaria parasite in check. Paper, plastic bottles, autos, refrigerators, and computers have all found a new home in emerging nations.

Computers and other electronic devices contain components that can be recycled but also contain various hazardous compounds. Refrigerators contain CFCs that destroy the ozone layer. PCBs are sometimes found on circuit boards.

Lead, barium, and other heavy metals are frequently found in monitors, while phosphorus and mercury are included in many of their components.

Computers and televisions that have been thrown away might pollute the surroundings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies cathode ray tubes as dangerous waste, and they can have up to 3½ kilos of lead along with other substances including barium and phosphorus.

Mercury is present in the backlighting lamps of flat-screen televisions and laptops, but fewer hazardous elements are present in LCDs than in cathode-ray tubes. Hazardous materials found in personal computers include lead, beryllium, and hexavalent chromium.

7. Recycling

Trash collectors are the ones who recycle. They take what they need out of the trash and sort through it. Recycling facilities are where they sell recyclable materials. If they receive payment for the bottles, people are very good about returning them.

On the outskirts of wealthy neighborhoods, some of the most successful urban poor people make a living by scavenging trash.

In many cases, recently arrived rural migrants begin by gathering trash to sell to recycling contractors because they are desperate to obtain any kind of cash. City governments can collect and recycle waste for almost free thanks to this technology.

Certain developing-nation cities have “one too percent of the population that is supported directly or indirectly by the refuge for the from the upper 10 to 20 percent.”

8. Dams in the Developing World

Dams have been constructed to produce energy, manage flooding, enhance transportation, and supply water for irrigation and other purposes.

The 45,000 massive dams that exist now capture 14% of the world’s precipitation runoff, supply water for up to 40% of irrigated areas, and generate more than half of the electricity needed in 65 nations.

Hydroelectric dam projects have resulted in a large number of rural residents losing their homes. Some people lost their land and got very little or nothing in return. Many of the displaced individuals move to the cities in search of work.

Microhydropower facilities have proven successful in a lot of nations. The systems, which were installed with the help of the local population, redirect water from rivers and streams to power turbines that have intricate dams and catchment areas. Up to 200 kilowatts, or enough electricity to power 200–500 houses, can be produced by plants.

9. Air Pollution

Particles of soot, dust, acid aerosols, heavy metals, and organic hazardous materials are examples of air pollution. Because they are easier to breathe in, the smaller particles pose a greater threat to human health.

The primary pollutants responsible for acid rain are sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. The former is brought on by the reaction of sulfur emissions from commercial facilities and coal-fired power plants with oxygen.

The latter is created when oxygen and nitrogen, released from power plants, automobiles, and other sources, mix.

Nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons released by cars and refineries mix to generate ozone. There is one benefit to acid rain. Methane emissions as a greenhouse gas are decreasing.

A significant polluter is motor scooters. They often emit more pollution than American cars since they burn a blend of gasoline and oil. Because so many cars in underdeveloped countries still run on leaded fuel, there is a significant lead content in their air pollution.

Large volumes of coal are still burned for heating in many locations, which results in dense, hazy haze. Especially nasty coal is high-sulfur coal. It smells like rotten eggs. The use of CFCs is still widespread in underdeveloped nations. The ozone layers are in danger because of this.

The issue of pollution is not limited to one area. It might be worldwide. According to scientific estimates, one-third of the ozone that existed in Los Angeles in 2010 came from Asia.

10. Water Pollution

People frequently swim in filthy water, take baths, and wash their clothes. They frequently consume questionable water from animal-used ponds and streams.

Fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, animal feces, salts from evaporated irrigation water, and silt from deforestation that wash into streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and the ocean are the main sources of water pollution associated with agriculture.

There are instances where agricultural runoff is so bad that it leaves “dead zones” in coastal waterways.

Heavy metals and hazardous chemicals from mining and manufacturing are the main causes of industry-related water contamination. Surface water is contaminated by acid rain, which is produced by power plant emissions.

Untreated sewage from undeveloped areas that lack sewers and toilets, salts, fertilizers, and pesticides from irrigated land that contaminate groundwater supplies and flowing water, and saltwater from overused aquifers are the main sources of pollution in rural areas.

Sewage is frequently poured directly into water supplies that people use for drinking in areas with sewers because these areas lack waste-water treatment facilities.

Although there is pollution in the air and water near cities, it is not a major issue because contamination is so widespread in rural areas, with diseases as evidence.

11. Infectious Diseases

According to the IPCC, human health conditions would deteriorate due to due to global warming, particularly in tropical countries.

Temperature increases are correlated with rising mosquito populations in regions like Africa, which raises the danger of dengue fever, malaria, and other illnesses spread by insects. There are additional effects in other areas.

Variations in the frequency of malaria outbreaks were observed in the United States; in 2006, an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease, a bacterial lung infection linked to global warming, afflicted the United Kingdom.

According to the WHO, Europe will see a significant rise in insect-borne illnesses as a result of global warming. Turkey, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan may already be in the risk zone for malaria carried by mosquitoes.

The capacity to withstand temperature variations varies by location, though. Richer society can leverage technological developments; for example, the use of more powerful air conditioners and the construction of houses lessen heat absorption.

However, underdeveloped nations lack the public health infrastructure, resources, and technological know-how needed to stop these kinds of outbreaks.

12. Heatwaves

Extended durations of unusually high temperatures can have detrimental impacts on the health of vulnerable groups, including the elderly and the ill. This was previously observed during the European heatwave of 2003, which resulted in almost 35,000 deaths.

Using computer models, researchers at the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research in the United Kingdom demonstrated how greenhouse gas emissions have raised the probability of heatwaves.

The most frequent side effect is heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, which is deadly if ignored. The IPCC projects that nights with high temperatures will follow days with high temperatures due to global warming.

13. Loss of Agricultural Productivity.

Droughts brought on by global warming have the potential to aggravate living circumstances, especially in Africa. Climate change, according to the World Wild Fund, has the potential to significantly alter rainfall patterns, endangering millions of people’s access to food and water.

According to the IPCC study, crop output in Africa will drop by roughly 50% by 2020, leaving between 75 million and 250 million people without access to enough water and food. Thirty million people in Asia may face food shortages as a result of rising temperatures.

14. Asthma and other Respiratory Diseases

Individuals with cardiac conditions are more susceptible to rising temperatures, particularly those who reside in warm climates where their bodies need to use more energy to stay cool.

Warm weather raises the concentration of ozone, which can harm lung tissue and complicate conditions for individuals suffering from asthma and other respiratory disorders. A threat to national security from increased global warming might also impact food security, which can result in resource disputes.


It is painful to note that even with these glaring environmental issues and effects in developing countries like those in Africa and Asia, there has been little action taken. In some countries, the government even obstructs the actions of groups that are looking to take action towards environmental protection.

This tells us that we who reside in these areas must rise to the occasion to see that something is done to store our environment. Let’s lend our voices to those who have been shut down.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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