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    Industrialization and urbanization have intensified environmental health risks and pollution, especially in developing countries. Air pollutionlead poisoning, inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and hazardous wastes cause debilitating and fatal illnesses, create harmful living conditions, and destroy ecosystems. Pollution stunts economic growth and exacerbates poverty and inequality in both urban and rural areas. Poor people, who cannot afford to protect themselves from the negative impacts of pollution, end up suffering the most.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 12.6 million people die from environmental health risks annually. Air pollution has become the fourth highest risk factor for premature deaths – one in 10 deaths worldwide is attributable to air pollution exposure. While the challenge of pollution is a global one, the impacts are overwhelmingly felt in developing countries. About 95 percent of adults and children impacted by pollution-related illnesses live in low and middle-income countries.

    According to the World Bank, the economic burden of pollution associated with premature mortality and morbidity is equivalent to 5 to 14% of countries' GDPs.  Individual country studies, for Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, China, India, Lao PDR, Morocco, Nepal, PakistanPeru and Zambia, at national and subnational levels, suggest that the costs of pollution related disease are mainly due to outdoor and household air pollution; lead exposure; noise pollution; and inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

    It is critical to address pollution because of its unacceptable toll on health and human capital, as well as associated GDP losses. Pollution management offers no-regrets options that can alleviate poverty, boost shared prosperity, and address the vital demands of millions of people for healthier and more productive lives. In addition, pollution management can enhance competitiveness, for example, through job creation, better energy efficiency, improved transport, and sustainable urban and rural development. Pollution management can also make substantial contributions to climate change mitigation through actions, such as reduction of black carbon emissions, which contribute to both air pollution and global warming.

  • The World Bank Group works with developing countries and development partners to reduce pollution, implement proper waste management, improve water and air quality, and promote clean development for healthier lives and better economic opportunity.

    Between Fiscal Year 2009 and 2016, World Bank commitments (IBRD/IDA) to pollution management and environmental health totaled more than US$ 7 billion.

    Recently approved loans, in FY15 and FY16, for more than $2.1 billion, include projects to improve air quality in several countries. In China, a US$500 million project is reducing emissions of specific air pollutants in the province of Hebei and increasing energy efficiency and clean energy in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. In Colombia, a World Bank loan aims to improve environmental quality by reducing water pollution, and improving waste management. In Piaui, Brazil, actions supported by the Bank will improve environmental health, as part of a comprehensive strategy to promote social inclusion and increase the productivity of the rural poor. In Peru, a project is supporting air and water quality monitoring systems. In Lebanon, a project is helping to clean up the pollution in Lake Qaraoun. In Zambia, a Bank loan is assisting the Government in remediating critically polluted mining sites. In Mexico City (Mexico), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Santiago (Chile), and Bangkok, (Thailand), policies aimed at reducing pollution have produced tangible health benefits for people of all backgrounds.

    The Bank provides technical assistance, financing and knowledge products that cover:

    • improving air quality through the reduction of indoor/outdoor air pollution;
    • improving water quality, both in freshwater and in oceans;
    • integrating management of waste including hazardous waste management and remediation of contaminated sites;
    • reducing short lived climate pollutants for climate change mitigation;
    • promoting environmental sustainability through cleaner production and pollution prevention; and
    • strengthening environmental institutions by helping countries improve environmental governance, regulation and enforcement.

    In 2014, the World Bank established a Multi-donor Trust Fund for Pollution Management and Environmental Health (PMEH-MDTF) to promote more systematic and effective responses to deadly and costly air pollution in selected low income countries including China, Egypt, India, Nigeria, South Africa and Vietnam.

  • Air pollution

    In Bangladesh, the Bank is helping to modernize brick kilns to reduce air pollution, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and increase productivity. Carbon emission reduction credits generated by the project are helping improve working conditions, protect people’s health and provide better pay for workers.

    Through policy-based loans in Peru (completed at the end of 2016), Bank supported reforms helped improve air quality in the country’s largest cities by reducing the content of sulfur in diesel, converting vehicles so they can run on natural gas instead of other polluting fuels, and setting up a system to ensure that vehicles’ emissions are within permissible limits. The same program also supported the establishment and strengthening of the organizations that are responsible for developing and implementing environmental policies in Peru.

    In Peru, a project to develop environmental information systems will expand the country's air quality monitoring network to six new cities (Trujillo, Chiclayo, Iquitos, Huancayo, Cusco and Piura). The project also funds the construction of a government laboratory to test samples from its stations and to provide calibration and quality control of third-party labs. Finally, the project is developing new systems to disseminate this information to the public.

    In Morocco, the Bank supported the adoption of policies to reduce the emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions by: i) installing energy efficiency requirements in 400,000 m2 of new buildings; ii) fostering the development of energy from renewable sources; and iii) reducing fossil fuel subsidies that primarily benefit high income households and result in overconsumption of polluting fuels. The Bank is also supporting the development of cleaner economic activities, both by reducing pollution from industries and by creating opportunities in environmentally friendly sectors, such as eco-tourism.

    Working jointly with client countries, the Bank also carries out analytical work to identify environmental priorities for poverty alleviation. Among the analytical work completed recently, the Bank worked with Pakistan, whose cities have some of the world's least healthy air, to develop policy options for combatting air pollution.

    More results:

    Curbing Air Pollution in Ulaanbaatar

    Cleaner Cookstoves for a Healthier Indonesia

    Bangladesh Clean Air & Sustainable Environment

    Clean Air and Healthy Lungs: Enhancing the World Bank's Approach to Air Quality Management.


    Laos: First Green Growth DPO

    Colombia: Second Sustainable Development and Green Growth DPO

    Water pollution

    The Bank is assisting Argentina with an ambitious integrated plan for the cleanup and sustainable development of the Matanza-Riachuelo River basin. The project is building a large wastewater collector on the left bank of the Riachuelo River, which will transport sewage to different treatment plants, thereby avoiding direct discharge into the river. The project is also constructing an 11.5-kilometer outfall that will lead to Río de la Plata. Additionally, the Integral Sanitation Plan will expand and/or build several treatment plants throughout the basin and construct waterfall aeration stations. These large-scale engineering works are crucial for the health of 7 million people living in the area, of whom at least 10 percent live below the national poverty line.

    In China, the Bank helped clean up the Pearl River system in fast-growing Guangdong province by expanding waste water treatment capacities in the cities of Foshan and Jiangmen—an action that directly benefited 1.7 million residents in the project areas. Pollution reduction and water quality improvement in the Pearl River Delta waterways have also contributed to the welfare of the people who live downstream of the project area.

    In Vietnam, the Industrial Pollution Control Program is helping improve compliance with industrial wastewater treatment in four of the most industrialized provinces in the country. To achieve this objective, the World Bank is supporting the Vietnamese government to strengthen environmental policy, monitoring, and enforcement, and is providing funds to construct and expand wastewater treatment infrastructure.

    In Romania, under the World Bank-supported Integrated Nutrient Pollution Control Project rural communities around the country are being equipped with essential tools needed to improve livestock manure management and prevent nitrates and other dangerous minerals from contaminating Romania’s soil and water supplies.

    More results:

    Kazakhstan Nura River Cleanup Project

    Controlling pollution in Croatia’s Coastal Waters

    Wastewater treatment and landfills ease pollution in China’s Yangtze River

    Cleaner Production in Pakistan's Leather and Textile Sectors


    Azerbaijan: Absheron Lakes Cleanup and Rehabilitation

    Brazil: Fortaleza Sustainable Urban Development Project

    Philippines: Metro Manila Flood Management

    Togo: Urban Infrastructure Project

    Vietnam: Coastal Cities Sustainable Environment Project

    Integrated Waste Management and Remediation of Hazardous Waste Sites

    In Zambia, a Bank loan is assisting the Government to reduce environmental health risks to the local population in critically polluted mining areas in Chingola, Kabwe, Kitwe, and Mufulira municipalities, including lead exposure in Kabwe municipality.

    In Morocco, the World Bank has supported the modernization of waste management, including at sites like Oum Azza, near Rabat, where traditional trash-pickers now operate a recycling collective in improved conditions.

    In Africa, a $25 million program has removed over 3,000 tons of obsolete and dangerous pesticides from close to 900 contaminated sites in Ethiopia, Mali, Tanzania, Tunisia and South Africa.

    In Belarus, the Bank worked with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection to develop its capacity to treat and dispose of hazardous waste. The Bank supported a massive cleanup operation at the Slonim burial site, which excavated and disposed of up to 1,750 tons of toxic obsolete pesticides.

    More Results:

    Cleaning up Uranium in Argentina

    Ridding Moldova of Toxic Chemicals

    Kazakhstan Kamenogorsk Environmental Remediation

    Montenegro Industrial Waste Management


    China: Hunan Integrated Management of Agricultural Land Pollution Project

    India: Uttar Pradesh Solid Waste Management Project

    Mexico: National Integrated Solid Waste Management Project

    What A Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management [Update]