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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.

    Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death.  Pollution of air, land, and water cause an estimated 9 million premature deaths (16% of all deaths worldwide). That’s three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence.

    According to the World Bank, at a global level the cost associated with health damage from ambient air pollution is estimated to be $5.7 trillion, equivalent to 4.8% of global GDP in 2016. In individual countries, the economic burden of pollution associated with premature mortality and morbidity is also significant, 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 2003 and 2018, more than 560 World Bank Group projects have addressed air, water and land pollution management. In the same period, WBG financing in this area is more than US$43 billion. Projects are aimed at improving air quality in several countries. In China two US$500 million projects are reducing concentrations of air pollutants in the province of Hebei and increasing energy efficiency and clean energy in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. 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 Pakistan, the World Bank invests and supports policy reforms and pollution management interventions through the Punjab Green Development program, a $200M program approved in FY19. 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 World Bank is also placing a strong emphasis on the management of marine litter and the comprehensive management of plastics.  There is broad consensus on the set of solutions, including stopping leakages by improving waste management and reducing the upstream production and use of plastics. Reducing the upstream production of plastics is linked to resource efficiency and clean production, and to concepts of circular economy. In Pakistan for example, the World Bank is supporting the Government of the Punjab province, to develop a plastic management strategy to include regulation on the production and consumption of single-use plastics. In Grenada, the Bank supports policy reform for Fiscal Resilience and Blue Growth, which includes a total ban on Styrofoam food containers and plastic bags.

    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.

    In 2018, the World Bank co-sponsored and participated in the first WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health. The conference resulted in several countries, cities, mayors, NGOS, and IFIs announcing voluntary commitments, new initiatives and financial support to tackle air pollution while promoting health. The World Bank has developed an online training course on the fundamentals of air quality management, available through the World Bank Open Learning Campus platform.

  • Air pollution

    In Bangladesh, the Bank is  helping to improve air quality and safe mobility in Dhaka by strengthening air quality monitoring and modernizing brick making and urban transport. Carbon emission reduction credits generated with Bank support are helping to improve working conditions, to protect people’s health and to provide better pay for workers.

    Through policy-based operations in Peru  and an investment loan the Bank is supporting a project to develop environmental information systems that includes expanding 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 emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases 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. Through this highly successful project, the Bank supported the development of cleaner economic activities, both by reducing pollution from industries and by creating opportunities in environmentally friendly sectors, such as eco-tourism. 

    In Lao PDR the Bank is supporting the government in undertaking policy reforms aimed at minimizing health risks from pesticides and promoting cleaner production in industry; and establishment of national standards for air and water quality - including lead in air and water – and vehicle emission standards. The Bank has provided this support through two development policy operations.  A third operation, currently under preparation, will help to consolidate Lao PDR’s policies to prevent and reduce pollution.

    In Mongolia, the World Bank is helping to curb air pollution in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.  Air pollution is particularly during winter, when dwellers of ger areas burn coal and wood for cooking and heating.  The Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project is helping to replace stoves and low-pressure boilers with more energy efficient alternatives in the short term.  The project is also working with the municipality to increase access to affordable housing and providing services, such as district heating, to improve the living conditions of some of Ulaanbaatar’s poorest and most vulnerable groups and further improve air quality over the longer term.

    Analytical work

    Working jointly with client countries, the Bank also carries out analytical work to identify environmental priorities for poverty alleviation. A recent publication of analytical work conducted by the Bank assessed the global estimates of health burden of outdoor air pollution and the implications for low- and middle-income countries. Another publication addressed opportunities and challenges for filling air quality data gaps in low- and middle-income countries. During a  WHO conference on air pollution and health in 2018, the World Bank shared findings from recent analytical work that assessed the performance of satellite technology for air quality measurements in low- and middle-income countries. In addition, interventions for reducing air pollution were presented along with work that addresses the linkages between pollution, health, climate change and fiscal solutions.

    The World Bank has also helped to develop a framework that can be used by client countries to understand the linkages between fossil fuel subsidies and air pollution. The framework can help to estimate the air pollution and health benefits that would result from subsidy reform, thereby strengthening the rationale for phasing out subsidies to polluting fuels.

    In Europe and Central Asia, the World Bank conducted analytical work that assesses the cost of ambient air pollution in Poland, both nationally and by individual regions. With emphasis on the critical residential sector, this work analyzes the likely impacts of national and EU legislative scenarios on future pollution emissions and ambient air quality in Poland. The work also includes a demonstrative cost-benefit analysis of selected interventions to reduce ambient air pollution in residential and transport sectors and from point sources in the regions that bear the heaviest burden of the impacts of ambient air pollution. In the Western Balkan countries of North Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, analytical work conducted by the World Bank assesses the cost of ambient air pollution in the individual countries. Furthermore, the work assesses current and future structures of air emission sources in the country and provides national-level source apportionment analyses of PM2.5, the most documented air pollutant for its harmful effects on human health.

    In Pakistan, the World Bank conducted analytical work that helped to raise awareness about the severity of air pollution and its impacts on human health. The analytical work also identified cost-effective interventions to reduce outdoor air pollution and opportunities to strengthen the institutional framework for air quality management.

    Analytical work has also been instrumental to help set environmental priorities, identifying the categories of environmental degradation that are more closely linked with poverty reduction and economic growth.  This approach has been applied in Sindh (Pakistan), the Sundarbans (West Bengal, India), and Lao PDR, where analytical work has informed investments, policy reforms, and capacity building interventions to address environmental priorities.  Analytical work has also been used to mainstream pollution management in key sectors, such as transport and industry.

    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 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:

    Cleaner Production in Pakistan's Leather and Textile Sectors

    China Guangdong Pearl River Delta Urban Environment project

    Brazil: Fortaleza Sustainable Urban Development Project

    Togo: Urban Infrastructure Project

    Vietnam: Coastal Cities Sustainable Environment Project

    Kazakhstan Nura River Cleanup Project

    Controlling pollution in Croatia’s Coastal Waters

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

    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. The project will support the strengthening of financial mechanism for scientific closure of mines, remediation of contaminated hotspots and improved enforcement of regulations and monitoring of environmental quality.  Remediation activities and management of contaminated hotspots will benefit an estimated 70,000 people living in hotspots and an estimated 30,000 children.

    The Montenegro Industrial Waste Management and Cleanup Project is helping to remediate industrial waste disposal sites and ensure that hazardous waste from industries is disposed in compliance with Montenegrin and European Union legislation.  The project supports strengthening of the regulatory framework and development of infrastructure to provide environmentally acceptable solutions for waste management.

    The China: Hunan Integrated Management of Agricultural Land Pollution Project is demonstrating a risk-based approach to manage heavy metal pollution in agricultural land.  The project is also strengthening agricultural environmental monitoring and management and includes training activities tailored to the needs of government officials, environmental monitoring staff, and farmers.

    In Morocco, the World Bank 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, and is supporting the development of carbon assets in the solid waste sector

    In Africa, a $25 million program 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 supported 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:

    China Contaminated Site Management Project

    Cleaning up Uranium in Argentina

    Ridding Moldova of Toxic Chemicals

    Kazakhstan Kamenogorsk Environmental Remediation