Tackling the pollution crisis to support healthier people and planet


In polluted communities around the world, daily life is mired with challenges. 

With nearly 33 million residents, Delhi consistently records one of the world’s highest air pollution levels . The resultant economic consequences on India’s capital city are far-reaching. Families earn less from missed days of work and medical expenses. With reduced worker productivity levels come lower profits for local businesses. In turn, the city and state governments collect less tax, impacting the following year’s budgets for building and maintaining hospitals, public transport and infrastructure, and other essential services. In 2019, this economic loss amounted to 1.08% of Delhi’s state-level GDP.

In addition to these economic effects, pollution causes the premature deaths of more than 9 million people around the world each year. Air pollution alone accounts for 7 million of these deaths – to put this staggering number into perspective, this is equivalent to the number of people that have died from COVID-19 since March 2020 dying each year.  The estimated cost of the health damage caused by air pollution amounts to $8.1 trillion a year, equivalent to 6.1% of global GDP.  Pollution inhibits our ability to lead productive lives.

Pollution is undermining the competitiveness and growth of economies today and setting economies up to fail tomorrow. UNICEF and Pure Earth estimate that 1 in 3 children – or up to 800 million globally – have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter when any lead disrupts a child’s neurological development and can cause premature death. 

And it’s not just pollution’s impact on economies that is wreaking havoc; pollution is degrading ecosystems on which the wealth of the poor depends, further eroding the ability of communities to get out of poverty.   Air and other pollution lead to acid rain, a newly growing scourge across Asia. This pollutes arable lands and impacts crops. Persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and other chemical pollutants that reach the environment enter the food supply, impacting both food safety and food security.

On both land and sea, our habitats and ecosystems become less resilient to climate change in the face of high pollution levels. Plastics pollution is perhaps the most visible example. The unmanaged disposal of plastic destroys biodiversity and pollutes the food chain. Every year, 8 million tons of plastic escape into our oceans from coastal nations, impacting the health of our oceans and the species that inhabit them.  If that isn’t enough to catalyze action, consider this: 8 million tons worth of plastic is the equivalent of placing five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world, according to National Geographic.

Together, the impacts of pollution spell a global crisis. Current linear economies have for too long disconnected the benefits of trade and industrialization from the degradation they leave behind.  The theory behind growing now and cleaning up later has proven vulnerable to the reality of the death, disease, and economic stagnation caused by pollution. Since pollution is a problem for today’s economies and tomorrow’s economic building blocks, inaction is no longer an option. That is why the World Bank is working to clean up pollution today and help cities and countries build a low-pollution, low-emission world in which cleaner air, water, and land build green, resilient, and inclusive economies.

We are supporting countries to:

  1.  Build robust policies, such as through supporting client countries as they negotiate on an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. The World Bank Group’s Pathways out of Plastic Pollution report provides good practice guidelines to support countries in their plastic pollution reduction goals.
  2. Build capacity for credible institutions, including stronger ministries of environment that are better able to address the cumulative environmental challenges, but also able to grasp the new opportunities offered by the circular economy. 
  3. Construct the necessary public infrastructure to scale up circular economy approaches, including by strengthening the country’s digital architecture, “greening” public transportation, and investing in nature-based solutions.
  4. Unlock finance, both public and private, including by repurposing subsidies, supporting the SME financial sector ecosystem, and mobilizing international public finance and private capital.

Back in India, encouraging work is well underway. In 2019, the government launched the National Clean Air Program, which aims to improve lives and reduce particulate matter pollution by 30% by 2024. Meanwhile, in Egypt, the World Bank has supported the Government in adopting an integrated approach to tackling pollution, waste and climate change. From improving solid waste management to piloting e-buses and removing harmful fuel subsidies, the Government of Egypt is developing the building blocks for a successful circular economy.

In Indonesia, the Bank has supported the government in meeting its ambitious solid waste management goals and reducing plastic pollution. Our Plastics Policy Simulator allows policymakers to estimate the impacts of various government measures to address plastic pollution on businesses and households. These data-driven tools can help the Indonesian government develop better-informed policy interventions to reduce plastic pollution.

As the world takes strong action to reverse the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss, tackling the pollution crisis remains of equal importance and urgency. Tackling pollution now will bring benefits today as well as tomorrow – a  World Bank study found that a 20% decrease in PM2.5, a particularly harmful form of air pollution, is associated with a 16% increase in employment growth rate and a 33% increase in labor productivity. 

We can do better. 

Tackling the jobs challenges of coal transition

COP26 helped focus global attention on the challenge of transitioning out of coal. In recent1543136737_a282ca38fe_hero-k months, however, the war in Ukraine has led to a rise in coal use, as a short-term replacement of Russian oil and gas. But in the medium term, both advanced and developing economies will need to accelerate the coal transition to meet Paris Agreement targets. Decisive actions and financial resources are essential, but success will ultimately depend on effective policies to deal with the resulting disruption to jobs, reflected in the call for a “just transition.”

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Air pollution kills – Evidence from a global analysis of exposure and poverty

Globally, poor air quality is estimated to cause some 7 million deaths each year, as it05.18_air_pollution_kills_blog_image increases the risk of a wide range of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Yet the exposure to and impact of air pollution are not equally distributed. Air pollution is particularly prevalent in industrializing developing economies. Less stringent air quality regulations, the prevalence of older polluting machinery and vehicles, subsidized fossil fuels, congested urban transport systems, rapidly developing industrial sectors, and cut-and-burn practices in agriculture are all contributing to heightened pollution levels. The lack of affordable quality healthcare services further increases air pollution related mortality.

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Supporting Pollution Reduction Efforts to Protect the Health of Egyptians and Spur Economic Recovery

Recent studies highlighting the adverse impact of pollution on growth estimate that the annual economic cost of air pollution on health in the Greater Cairo area alone is about 1.4 percent of Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product.

Healthy citizens are the cornerstone of every country’s development and are integral for sustainable economic growth. Given the many health hazards of pollution—from cancer to respiratory ailments and much more—it is increasingly becoming recognized as an impediment to growth and development. Recent global efforts to minimize pollution, through initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and The Paris Agreement, aim to set global guidelines for countries in order to reduce pollution. 

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Tackling poor air quality: Lessons from three cities

How can countries grow their economies and keep air pollution in check at the same time? A shutterstock_1040255047new World Bank report explores that tricky question, looking at the kinds of policies and actions three leading cities have taken to tackle poor local air quality, providing lessons for other cities. As we mark World Cities Day on October 31, this research seems more timely than ever.

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In India, air quality has been improving despite the COVID-19 lockdown

India is home to some of the world’s most polluted cities. An unintended but welcomeshutterstock_761795974 consequence of the lockdown to contain the coronavirus has been improved air quality throughout the country.  Our assessment of India’s air quality trends has found another underlying and positive trend: air quality has been improving across the country since 2018, and this has nothing to do with the COVID-19 lockdown. 

Growing Threat of Air Pollution

Poor air quality has come to be recognized as a serious health risk and drag on economic development in India. Air quality has been deteriorating across the country since the 1990s, and in 2017 as much as 97 percent of the country’s population was estimated to be exposed to unhealthy levels of ambient PM2.5.  Though there are many types of air pollutants, these small particulates in the air, about one-thirtieth the width of a human hair, are the most harmful to human health.  They can penetrate deep into the lungs, enter the bloodstream and cause deadly illnesses such as lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

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Caribbean beaches are littered with single-use plastics

Article by Karin Kemper & Tahseen Sayed, www.blogs.worldbank.org

Concern about the world’s oceans is growing. Overfishing threatens fisheries, coral reefs caribbeanpollutionare declining and disappearing, and the number of dead zones is increasing. A dearth of waste management on land results in pollutants and debris, including plastics, finding a home in the ocean.

A new World Bank report, Marine Pollution in the Caribbean: Not a Minute to Waste, analyzes the causes and offers solutions for ocean pollution in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, now a hotspot for marine debris, especially plastics.

In the Caribbean and around the world, plastics and other waste are more likely to end up in the oceans when waste is poorly managed, such as through open dumping, open burning, and disposal in waterways.

The marine litter found in the Caribbean comes both from the region and from northern waters, brought in by prevailing currents.

Studies have measured the concentration of plastics across the Caribbean Sea and found as many as 200,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer in the northeastern Caribbean, according to the report.

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Five things you can do to end plastic pollution

shutterstock_699927847_0The news headlines are grim. A male pilot whale dies on a Thai beach having swallowed 80 plastics bags; images of turtles stuck in six-pack plastic rings; a sad photo of a tiny seahorse clinging to a plastic ear-bud goes viral. Plastic products wash up daily on beaches worldwide –from Indonesia to coastal west Africa, and waterways in cities are increasingly clogged with plastic waste.
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Deadline:03-Mar-2016 at 11:59:59 PM (Eastern Time – Washington D.C.)

In each of the key sectors which are the main contributors of air pollution in Grsolid wasteeater Cairo and water pollution in the Nile Delta, an analysis will be undertaken to determine the key abatement and policy measures to adhere to good practice international standards. The key sectors of analysis are: (i) waste; (ii) agriculture: (iii) sanitation: (iv) energy; (vi) transport; and (vii) industry.


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