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Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook


Effective July 1998

Urban Air Quality Management

Poor air quality due to pollution is a serious environmental problem in most urban areas. The
greatest burden of pollution is on human health. Urban air quality management requires an
integrated approach that determines which are the most serious problems; identifies the mea-
sures that offer cost-effective and feasible solutions across a range of economic sectors and
pollution sources, and builds a consensus among key stakeholders concerning environmental
objectives, policies, implementation measures, and responsibilities.

Rapid urbanization, motorization and economic domestic use of fossil fuels, especially heavy fuel
growth contribute to a growing air pollution oil, biomass, and brown coal, is a significant
problem in most large developing urban cen- source of ambient particulates and sulfur diox-
ters. Comparative risk assessment and health ide, especially in temperate regions (e.g., in China
studies have been carried out in a number of and Eastern Europe). Traffic is a large contribu-
cities (e.g., Bangkok, Cairo, Mexico City, Quito, tor to both particulate and sulfur emissions in
Santiago, and cities of Central and Eastern Eu- cities with frequent traffic congestion and with
rope). These studies indicate that the greatest large, poorly maintained fleets of vehicles that
damage to human health comes from exposure use high-sulfur diesel fuel (e.g., in Asia). In cities
to fine suspended particulates—particulate where leaded gasoline is still used, traffic may
matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than contribute 80–90% of atmospheric lead concen-
10 microns (PM 10 and smaller)—and to lead. trations. (Poorly controlled emissions from lead
Other pollutants of concern are sulfur dioxide
(SO2), to the extent it contributes to fine particu- Figure 1. Sources of Particulate Emissions
lates and long-range environmental damage; in Selected Cities
ozone (O3), mainly in warmer, sunny locations
with unfavorable topographic conditions; vola-
tile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which
are known carcinogens; nitrogen oxides (NOx),
contributors to ozone formation; and carbon 80
monoxide (CO), which is associated with global
warming. 60

Main Sources of Pollution 40

Anthropogenic air pollution originates from large

stationary sources (industries, power plants, and
municipal incinerators); small stationary sources
(households and small commercial boilers); and 0
Karachi Manila Seoul Rio Santiago
mobile sources (traffic); see Figure 1. Many of
Power Transport Household
these sources are closely related to the produc-
Power Industry
tion and consumption of energy, especially fos-
sil fuels. Besides power plants and industries, Source: UNEP and WHO 1992; World Bank 1996.

Urban Air Quality Management 97

smelters could also be significant.) The roles of pollutants with only localized health effects, such
natural and anthropogenic sources are equally as particulates. Urban planning, zoning, and
important in the formation of ground-level other land use regulations can influence urban
ozone. Natural sources, such as biogenic emis- air quality through microlevel decisions. How-
sions from plants and trees, and traffic emissions ever, these measures are not effective for persis-
are the largest sources of atmospheric VOC. Natu- tent pollutants such as heavy metals and for
ral, mobile, and stationary combustion sources pollutants with significant regional and global
are significant contributors to nitrogen oxide con- impacts such as sulfur dioxide and carbon diox-
centrations. Motor vehicles are typically respon- ide. Opportunities for applying alternative meth-
sible for the greatest part of carbon monoxide ods of emissions reduction also vary across
emissions. pollution sources (Table 1).
The impact of emissions on human expo- The impact of emissions from large stationary
sures depends on the location and dispersion sources can be reduced by choosing a location
of pollution: large stationary sources, often lo- away from populated areas; using clean fuels
cated at a distance from most densely popu- such as gas and low-sulfur or low-ash coal; ap-
lated city centers, disperse into higher layers of plying cleaner technologies such as fluidized-bed
the atmosphere, while households and traffic combustion and low-NOx burners; improving
emit near ground levels in highly populated ar- maintenance and housekeeping; and installing
eas. As a result, mobile and small stationary proper end-of-pipe control technologies such as
sources contribute more to ambient urban pol- electrostatic precipitators and baghouses.
lutant concentrations, and the resulting health The impacts of traffic-related emissions may
effects, than their share in total emissions loads be mitigated by diverting traffic away from
indicates. heavily populated areas (for example, by build-
ing ring roads around cities or restricting down-
Options for Reducing the Harmful Impacts town traffic); converting high-use vehicles to
of Pollution cleaner fuels (for example, converting buses to
natural gas); improving vehicle maintenance;
Measures to mitigate the negative effects of pol- increasing the share of less polluting traffic
lution may focus on separating pollution sources modes; using more fuel-efficient vehicles; and
and receptors, reducing the polluting activity, installing catalytic control devices. Supply-side
reducing its pollution characteristics, and control- traffic management measures aimed at reducing
ling emissions with filtering devices. Not all of congestion (for example, by improving road in-
these alternatives are available for all pollutants. frastructure) rarely lead to significant overall
Changing the location of the pollution source emissions reductions because they may simply
may be an effective strategy for universally mixed increase traffic flows.

Table 1. Most Effective Pollution Abatement Options at Key Sources

Industry and energy Traffic
Clean End- House- Clean End-
Mainte- tech- of- holds: Mainte- tech- of-
Location Fuels nance nology pipe Fuels Location Fuels nance nology pipe

PM10 x x x x x x x x x x
Lead x x x x
SO2 x x x x x x x x
VOCs x x x x
NOx x x x x x x x
CO x x x x
Note: PM10, particulate matter 10 microns or less in aerodynamic diameter; SO 2, sulfur dioxide; VOCs, volatile organic compounds;
NOx, nitrogen oxides; CO, carbon monoxide.

Emissions from households and other small • Determination of priority measures with high
stationary sources can be reduced most effec- benefit-cost ratios.
tively through conversion to cleaner fuels.
An integrated approach requires coordination
and consensus building across sectors and among
Policy Approaches and Instruments
affected stakeholders to agree on priorities and
adaptable measures; agreement on acceptable
Setting Priorities
benchmarks for environmental performance in
individual sectors; introduction of policies and
Because of the many sources of emissions in an
instruments to support implementation; and es-
airshed, pollution abatement focused on a single
tablishment of an implementation monitoring
sector may lead to little improvement in air qual-
and enforcement mechanism cutting across sec-
ity (see Box 1). Proper air quality management
tors and authorities.
requires an integrated approach consisting of:
• Use of monitoring and modeling to establish an Guidelines and Standards
emissions inventory of key pollutants and
emissions sources WHO establishes guidelines for ambient pollut-
• Use of dispersion modeling to determine the im- ant concentrations at which the risk of adverse
pacts of the emissions on ambient concentra- health impacts is considered negligible. (For cer-
tions tain pollutants with no threshold below which
• Use of dose-response functions and valuation tech- there are no observable effects, WHO provides
niques to estimate the impacts of the pollut- exposure-effect information, illustrating the ma-
ants on human health jor health impacts of different levels of the pol-
• Identification of technically feasible abatement op- lutant.) In developing countries with heavily
tions and calculation of their costs polluted areas, these guidelines may serve as
• Estimation of the impacts of these abatement long-term objectives; however, short-term actions
alternatives on ambient air quality and human should be guided by a careful analysis of the ex-
health pected benefits and costs of pollution abatement

Box 1. Setting Priorities: Three Examples gible municipalities that adopted smoke-reduction
The sectoral approach in São Paulo: tackling the Integrated analysis of alternatives for reducing
“wrong” sources of pollution. Early World Bank projects emissions in Santiago. A Bank study (World Bank
to abate pollution did not attempt to address pollution 1994) analyzed the costs and the impacts on ambient
problems in an integrated way. The São Paolo Indus- air quality of several strategies for controlling pollu-
trial Pollution Control Project, for example, succeeded tion in Santiago de Chile:
in reducing particulate emissions from industrial
sources but ignored mobile sources, which were im- • Tightening emissions standards for light-duty ve-
portant contributors to pollution. As a consequence, hicles
the city’s ambient dust levels did not improve. • Setting more stringent emissions limits for diesel
An integrated approach in Slovenia. The govern- buses and trucks
ment of Slovenia requested World Bank assistance • Converting buses to natural gas
to finance the installation of flue-gas desulfurization • Tightening emissions limits for large stationary
technology at a power plant to reduce ambient par- sources
ticulate and sulfur dioxide concentrations in neighbor- • Converting households to clean fuels.
ing cities. An analysis of the main pollution sources The study found that, on an emitted-ton basis, reduc-
found, however, that the principal contributor to poor tions in particulates were more than 10 times more
ambient air quality was the use of low-quality coal in valuable, in terms of health benefits, than reductions
households and small boilers, which could be effec- in any other pollutant. Of the control options analyzed,
tively tackled by a coal-to-gas conversion program for measures to reduce emissions from fixed sources and
small combustion sources. Under the Bank-financed gasoline vehicles had the highest benefit-cost ratios,
Environment Project, an Air Pollution Abatement Fund followed by measures to reduce emissions from die-
was established to provide loans to households in eli- sel trucks and buses.
Urban Air Quality Management 99

measures. In practical terms, this leads to interim,

achievable ambient quality objectives. Box 2. “Good” and “Bad” Choices of Policy
The analysis of good practices for management
and pollution abatement, available technologies, Fuel taxes have been effectively applied in many
and the expected impacts on emissions and am- countries to increase demand for cleaner fuels. One
bient concentrations can provide minimum re- of the best-known examples is the differentiated taxa-
quirements for pollution abatement performance tion of gasoline according to its lead content. This
(or, alternatively, maximum emissions levels) in measure has contributed to a significant increase in
the market share of unleaded gasoline in a large
each sector. Requirements for pollution perfor-
number of European and other countries.
mance at individual sources, should, however, Other policy instruments have been less success-
take into account local conditions and may focus ful. For example, many big cities have experimented
on reductions at those sources that can carry out with placing various restrictions on traffic (for ex-
the reductions at the least cost. Allowing ample, according to license plate number) to reduce
intersectoral and intercompany agreements air pollution from mobile sources. These programs
within an airshed (the bubble concept) may be did not fulfill policymakers’ expectations of reducing
overall emissions. In Mexico City, for example, the
a more cost-effective way of achieving the re-
measures encouraged drivers to buy additional, typi-
quired emissions reductions than less flexible cally more-polluting vehicles.

Regulations and Incentive Instruments • Indirect policy instruments such as product

charges, taxes, and deposit-refund systems are
In the past, pollution management most often best applied to small and diffuse pollution
focused on the improvement of technologies and sources that cannot be monitored easily; where
on the addition of end-of-pipe controls relying the use and disposal of products are closely
on uniform emissions or technological standards. linked to their pollution effects; and where
The limitations of this approach have directed prices can influence producer and user behav-
policymakers’ attention to more flexible mea- ior. Examples are fuel taxes and deposit-refund
sures that rely on improved management and systems for batteries.
pollution prevention techniques, with an in- While incentive policy instruments offer po-
creased focus on the complex effects of pollution tential cost savings and allow flexibility in re-
from a variety of sources on ambient air quality sponding to environmental requirements, the
and human exposures (see Box 2). administrative costs of such measures may be
Incentive-based policy instruments increase high, or the feasibility of implementation may
the price of pollution, encourage the search for be low, requiring direct regulation. Prohibiting
cleaner operations, and influence the demand for the use of highly toxic substances (such as lead
polluting activities: in gasoline) and industrial processes (such as
• Direct-incentive policy instruments such as emis- mercury cell chlor-alkali production) is a typical
sions charges (or, alternatively, emissions per- example.
mit trading) may be best applied to large
stationary sources and to pollutants (such as References and Sources
PM10, SO2, and NOx) for which the abatement
cost varies across pollution sources and for Eskeland, Gunnar S., and Shantayanan Devarajan.
1995. Taxing Bads by Taxing Goods: Pollution Control
which monitoring is feasible. The best ex-
with Presumptive Charges. Directions in Development
amples are the acid rain trading program in series. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
the United States, which contributed to a sig-
nificant reduction of the overall costs of reduc- OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
ing sulfur dioxide emissions from large Development). 1995. Motor Vehicle Pollution: Reduc-
stationary sources, and the nitrogen oxide tion Strategies beyond 2010. Paris.
emission charge on large combustion plants UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and
in Sweden. WHO (World Health Organization). 1992. Urban Air

Pollution in Megacities of the World. Oxford: Blackwell ————. 1996. “Brazil: Managing Environmental Pol-
Publishers. lution in the State of Rio de Janeiro.” Report 15488-
BR. Washington, D.C.
World Bank. 1994. “Chile: Managing Environmental
Problems: Economic Analysis of Selected Issues.”
Report 13061-CH. Washington, D.C.