By Emma Marsden and Bulganmurun Tsevegjav
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on 8–9 October hosted a regional inception workshop to kick start the implementation of the regional technical assistance titled “Strengthening Knowledge and Actions to Improve Air Quality” (TA 9608) at the ADB headquarters in Manila. The TA addresses urban air pollution, which has become a serious environmental and social problem in many of Asia’s cities, posing a major health risk, among other negative impacts, to their residents, particularly vulnerable groups.
About 98 percent of cities in Asia experience levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) beyond the internationally recognized World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guideline.1 Given this high level of exposure, several questions arise: What are the main causes and consequences of urban air pollution in Asian cities? Are national and city governments taking adequate measures to address the problem? How can city governments, including the energy and transport sectors, best tackle urban air pollution at the city level? How can lessons learned and best practices adopted in other countries and cities, such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), be shared?
These questions sit behind the TA outputs and were at the heart of the dialogues during the regional inception workshop.
Highlights of the workshop
Around 80 participants (40% female) from government, non-governmental organizations, and civil society attended the workshop. Participants included national and city government officials from the five developing member countries (specifically, seven cities) targeted by the TA: Bangladesh (Faridpur), Mongolia (Erdenet), Pakistan (Peshawar and Sialkot), the Philippines (La Trinidad), and Viet Nam (Ho Chi Minh and Vinh Yen). Representatives from WHO and the International Labor Organization, academia, ADB Youth, and international health, energy, transport, and finance experts were also in attendance.
The two-day event was designed so that city-level participants without any technical knowledge of air quality management could benefit from the workshop sessions as much as the experts. The first sessions introduced the basic concepts of urban air pollution, major sources, and how it affects public health.
Conversations around air pollution are often focused on the perception that it is the outside air that is the most polluted. However, participants heard that in some countries indoor air pollution levels can be even higher that outside, and therefore cities also need to address it alongside outdoor air pollution. Policy and legislative, institutional, technological, and financial solutions, including low carbon technologies and the use of market-based instruments for air pollution control, were presented.
Following this, city representatives were given the opportunity to present the urban air pollution challenges they face in their cities and how the TA through its support for developing a Clean Air Action Plan can aid their current efforts.
Overall, the objectives of the remaining sessions were to:
- Provide information on the TA including project background, the overall approach, method, scope and deliverables.
- Introduce the process of Clean Air Action Plan development, including case study examples from Mongolia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam.
- Provide an opportunity for the country and city representatives to discuss their air quality issues and to prepare a draft of the workplan for development of the City-Level Clean Air Action Plans.
Following the regional inception workshop, city-level inception workshops are being held, from which the City-Level Clean Air Action Plans will be developed. To inform the action plans, the TA will refer to existing baseline data, and the TA team will also collect new data on the air quality situation and undertake analytical studies at the city level to fill in knowledge gaps.
Furthermore, policy and legislative, institutional, technological, and financial solutions will be evaluated, taking on board lessons learned and best practices from other countries and cities, including a technology transfer event planned for the PRC in late 2020.
Background of the project
The TA project aims to increase the commitment of the selected countries to improve air quality management, helping the target cities to build a business case for investment through the preparation of City-Level Clean Air Action Plans, and investment plans that will see to its implementation.
The TA has three main outputs (also detailed in the diagram below):
- Output 1 focuses on “assessment” of air quality status and capacity for air quality management at city level, including monitoring of air quality levels in secondary cities using low cost monitors, which will help to raise political and public awareness and provide the scientific basis for taking action.
- Output 2 is oriented towards “solutions” and is intended to help cities identify applicable and deliverable policy and legislative, technological, and financial solutions to tackle their air pollution sources as identified by Output 1.
- Output 3 intends to build on these two outputs to “mainstream air quality management” through the development of City-Level Clean Air Action Plans that are backed by investment roadmaps and have stakeholder buy in.