Pollution Management and Environmental Health Program

Air, land, and water pollution caused 9 million premature deaths in 2015, or 16% of all deaths worldwide. About 92% of all pollution-related mortality is seen in low-income and middle-income countries, with the poor, marginalized, and young hardest hit by the health effects of the contamination. The economic burden is immense: in 2016, ambient air pollution alone cost the global economy US$5.7 trillion—4.4 percent of global GDP.

The World Bank is committed to supporting countries most severely impacted by pollution by providing technical assistance on pollution management, facilitating knowledge generation and sharing, and raising awareness about the detrimental impact on global health.

World Bank lending commitments that address pollution management and environmental health issues grew from US$1.81 billion in FY2008 to US$4.28 billion in FY2016, with results including air pollution reduction in Mongolia and China, and easing contamination on land and in rivers in a number of developing countries. This work is in part supported by the Pollution Management and Environmental Health (PMEH) program within the World Bank’s Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice.

Solutions to pollution offer no-regrets options to boost economic development (through for example, increased tourism, improved transport, better energy efficiency, and increased overall productivity), mitigate climate change (short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon contribute equally to air quality and global warming) and address the vital demands of millions of people for healthier and more productive lives.

Pollution management and environmental health are important issues for both urban and rural development. Building inclusive and resilient cities requires the provision of pollution management infrastructure and services, like solid waste collection and air quality management, for rapidly growing urban populations. Sustainable rural development requires strong regulatory frameworks to reduce exposure to hazardous waste materials, like mining and e-wastes, and effective systems to minimize health hazards of pesticide and fertilizer, especially as agricultural production increases and intensifies.

The World Bank’s simultaneous approach to urban and rural environmental health provides a powerful platform to develop effective solutions to pollution management. Urban and rural residents may appear to face different environmental health risks; however, evidence demonstrates that both environments are systematically linked.

Ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity underlie PMEH’s mission to improve global health outcomes, especially for the poor, through reduction of pollution.



Over the last several years, stakeholders across low and middle income countries have expressed an urgent need for increased support on pollution management in order to respond to the magnitude of the threat to human health and economies. Responding to pollution is a challenge that is solvable in the near term to save lives and unlock economic opportunity through action at the local, national, regional and global levels.

The World Bank established a Pollution Management and Environmental Health (PMEH) program to respond to this demand from clients and stakeholders. PMEH is part of the World Bank’s brown business line (pollution management and environmental health) within the Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice. 

PMEH was officially launched on Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day (April 18, 2015) in Washington, D.C.

PMEH will initially run from 2015 to 2020, and focuses on air quality management, water and land pollution. The program is backed by a multi-donor trust fund to achieve three objectives:

  1. Support developing countries to significantly reduce air, land and water pollution through pollution management planning and investment.
  2. Generate and share knowledge on pollution and its health impacts in urban, rural and marine areas.
  3. Promote awareness of PMEH issues among policymakers, business partners, city leaders, and the general public.

To achieve these objectives, PMEH is organized into six components, including technical assistance for air quality management (component 1), chemical and toxic pollution management (component 2) and land-based pollution management to protect marine environments (component 3).

PMEH includes three components that enhance technical assistance and PMEH in selected countries and beyond. Under Component 4, research is conducted to strengthen the evidence and analytical underpinnings of PMEH in developing countries. Component 5 focuses on targeted dissemination of evidence and general awareness rising to improve evidence-based policy making. Finally, component 6 provides program management and implementation support. See the figure and futher details about each component below.

An important feature of PMEH is to foster south-south collaboration: targeted and coordinated knowledge exchange and collaboration across implementing countries can improve pollution management and environmental health in low and middle income countries.

PMEH operations in implementing countries are supported by the PMEH Secretariat in Washington, DC. The PMEH Secretariat coordinates between stakeholders, including between implementing countries and supporting countries; manages internal planning and reporting functions; and promotes global and technical cross-collaboration within the World Bank.

Components of PMEH


Each component has the following objectives:

Component 1: Provide technical assistance to support international collaboration for strengthening air quality management

Objectives include:

  1. Support selected countries and cities in selected countries to develop air quality management.
  2. Provide assistance to selected Chinese cities to meet their new air quality ratings.
  3. Facilitate south-south collaboration on air quality management.

In December 2016, PMEH co-hosted PMEH Business Week in Beijing, China, which addressed the raising burden of air pollution. Technical presentations from the events are available here.

Component 2: Provide technical assistance to strengthen management of chemicals and toxic pollution

Objectives include:

  1. Expand the Toxic Sites Identification Program following national consultations focusing on Arica and South Asia.
  2. Develop National Toxic Site Action Plans and mainstream plans for contaminated site management in country programs and others with a focus on Africa.
  3. Conduct city-level technical assistance on brownfield remediation.

Component 3: Provide technical assistance to support international collaboration for strengthening land-based pollution management to protect marine environments

Objectives include:

  1. Development of water quality management reports in selected marine areas.
  2. Development of plastic waste management programs.
  3. Facilitate south-south collaboration on marine pollution management.

Component 4: Conduct research and strengthen analytics for improved pollution management and environmental health

Objectives include:

  1. Conduct research on optimizing local air quality, public health and climate objectives through improved control and management of short-lived climate pollutants.
  2. Conduct analytical work to better understand the role of environmental degradation and pollution management in prosperous cities.
  3. Develop a better understanding of human health risks associated with hazardous and toxic pollution sites in low and middle income countries.
  4. Identify management and environmental remediation solutions for selected forms of rural and urban-based pollution.

Component 5: Promote dissemination, awareness research uptake for improved pollution management and environmental health

Objectives include:

  1. Disseminate knowledge products and guidance materials, including promotion of uptake and use of evidence by planners and policy makers.
  2. Raise public awareness through mass media and large-scale cultural events.
  3. Develop a like-minded nation and organization alliance focusing on pollution management and environmental health.

Component 6: Program development and implementation support

Objectives include:

  1. Coordination of global PMEH activities.
  2. Coordination of PMEH activities within the regions.
  3. Overall PMEH program development.
  4. Support of recipient-executed activities.

The World Bank has experience assisting low and middle income countries in addressing pollution. Some examples include:

  • Air Pollution Prevention and Control in Hebei, China, including Beijing: Pollution management in the Hebei region is coordinated by the Hebei Pollution Prevention and Control Implementation Action Plan (HAP), which coordinates prevention and control of emissions of multi-pollutants from industrial enterprises and mobile sources, as well as strengthens area pollution control, establishes pollution warning systems and planning tools, promotes industrial transformation, and increases clean energy supply. In June 2016, the World Bank supported the program with a loan of US$500 million to reduce emissions of specific air pollutants in the key sectors in Hebei.
  • China’s National Program for Particulate Matter (PM) Reduction: China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection in cooperation with the World Bank prepared a report designing a national program for particulate matter reduction in all its 655 cities. Based upon report findings, in 2012, China’s State Council promulgated new air quality regulations that tightened the yearly average PM10 values from 100 to 70 µg/m3, and established new standards for PM2.5 of yearly average of 35µg/m3 (both standards meet WHO interim target standards). A timeline was set and all 655 cities developed plans to achieve these standards by January 2016.
  • Clean Cookstoves in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Hunger among nomads on the Mongolian steppe have caused a rural-to-urban immigration into Ulaanbaatar that has almost tripled the city’s population. The city’s PM concentrations have increased largely due to low-efficient and high-polluting cook stoves. PM concentrations in Ulaanbaatar have been up to a yearly average of 350 µg/m3 for PM2.5 compared to the WHO standard of 10 µg/m3. This results in an average of 1,600 premature deaths per year. Based on an air quality management study prepared by the World Bank for Ulaanbaatar, a program was developed to replace cookstoves in approximately 170,000 households in Ulaanbaatar. Combined with other PM abatement initiatives, the city’s poorest residents can start breathing easier and the city’s mortality and morbidity are reduced.
  • Pesticide Cleanup across Africa: The World Bank implemented measures to dispose and prevent accumulation of pesticide stocks and associated waste in Ethiopia, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Tanzania, Tunisia, and South Africa. The Africa Stockpiles Program leveraged partnerships between industry, non-profit organizations, government, and multilateral organizations. A total of 3,164 tons of the inventoried 8,949 tons of publicly-held obsolete pesticides were eliminated using an environmentally and technically sound disposal method.
  • Environmental Health Awareness Campaigns in China: In collaboration with the China Ministry of Environmental Protection, the World Bank implemented six large-scale events, “Call for a Green China” in cities across China. The events raised public awareness around China’s environmental challenges and proposed solutions. The program performed in grand concert halls for a total audience of 10,000 people. Two of the performances were recorded and broadcasted on national television 12 times from 2007-12. The events demonstrated that concert halls may be effective venues to convey environmental messages as they reach a large and mixed audience. Additionally, engagement of the news media can amplify a message’s reach by providing extensive broadcasting time.  Moreover, certain messages are easier to convey by artists. As China’s Minister of Environment, Zhou Shengxian, stated in his opening remarks to the 2009 Tour: “We do not only need the scientific reflections by our technical experts to deal with China’s environmental challenges, but also the creative aspirations by our artists”.

Read more about the World Bank’s activities to reduce pollution here.