Pollution due to Urbanization

Addressing air pollution, which is the second highest risk factor for noncommunicable diseases, is key to protecting public health.

Most sources of outdoor air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and this demands concerted action by local, national and regional level policy-makers working in sectors like energy, transport, waste management, urban planning and agriculture.

There are many examples of successful policies that reduce air pollution:

  • for industry: clean technologies that reduce industrial smokestack emissions; improved management of urban and agricultural waste, including capture of methane gas emitted from waste sites as an alternative to incineration (for use as biogas);
  • for energy: ensuring access to affordable clean household energy solutions for cooking, heating and lighting;
  • for transport: shifting to clean modes of power generation; prioritizing rapid urban transit, walking and cycling networks in cities as well as rail interurban freight and passenger travel; shifting to cleaner heavy-duty diesel vehicles and low-emissions vehicles and fuels, including fuels with reduced sulfur content;
  • for urban planning: improving the energy efficiency of buildings and making cities more green and compact, and thus energy efficient;
  • for power generation: increased use of low-emissions fuels and renewable combustion-free power sources (like solar, wind or hydropower); co-generation of heat and power; and distributed energy generation (e.g. mini-grids and rooftop solar power generation);
  • for municipal and agricultural waste management: strategies for waste reduction, waste separation, recycling and reuse or waste reprocessing, as well as improved methods of biological waste management such as anaerobic waste digestion to produce biogas, are feasible, low-cost alternatives to the open incineration of solid waste – where incineration is unavoidable, then combustion technologies with strict emission controls are critical; and
  • for health-care activities: putting health services on a low-carbon development path can support more resilient and cost-efficient service delivery, along with reduced environmental health risks for patients, health workers and the community. In supporting climate friendly policies, the health sector can display public leadership while also improving health service delivery.