Whilst air pollution is a problem all around the world, it can be particularly troublesome in developing countries. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 98% of inhabitants of big cities in low-income countries live in a high level of air pollution, leaving them with a number of health problems due to the poor quality of air. This is contrasted with 56% of inhabitants of high-income countries. Both figures are worrying and illustrate the climate crisis of the present world.

From 2008 to 2013, levels of air pollution have increased by 8% around the world, meaning that far from improving, air pollution levels are becoming worse. Areas of India and China are among the countries worst affected, with cities like Beijing, Delhi, and Mumbai as some of the most polluted cities on earth.

Air pollution in Beijing
From 2008 to 2013, levels of air pollution have increased by 8% around the world.

This tends to be because developing countries either don’t have the technology to fight air pollution or because their economies are growing and they are experiencing their own ‘industrial revolutions’. Kevin Wood from WHO explains:

“The link between environmental damage and economic development is referred to as the Environmental Kuznets Curve, which states that the quality of the environment typically worsens during the initial growth of an economy but then levels out and eventually begins to improve with time.”

This is because there is pressure on developing nations to keep their economies growing to give their citizens the standards of development common in many countries today; this means they are less likely to invest in clean-air technology and policies, which are generally too expensive when the priority is to continue to grow the industry.

Overcoming this Environmental Kuznets Curve by protecting the environment in this stage of development, the early stages of economic growth, and implementing eco-friendly growth is an urgent matter for public health and the environment as a whole.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Developing countries are less likely to invest in clean-air technology and policies.

Given that clean air can actually save countries money long-term, as they increase public health by preventing diseases and death, and preventing a lot of money being spent on healthcare and hospital admissions. As health and life-expectancy improve, so does workers’ productivity, overall benefiting the economy.

So, as air-quality should be a priority, how can developing countries reduce their emissions?

Ways in which Developing Countries Facing Air Pollution can Reduce Their Emissions

1. Cleaner Methods of Transportation

Pollution in cities is largely caused by road traffic – if governments can regulate vehicle emissions, the amount of pollution in the air can decrease. Ways this can be achieved are by offering free or low-cost public transportation, encouraging car-pooling or ride-sharing, encouraging park and ride schemes. Governments can also provide cycling and pedestrian areas to encourage inhabitants to go car-free, and create emission-free zones within cities.

Rabat-Salé tram line in Morocco
Rabat-Salé tram line in Morocco

2. Better Waste Management

Robust recycling, reuse, and waste management system can go far in reducing emissions. Singapore, for example, generates energy from waste and fuels around 1000 homes per day from trash! Singapore achieves this by incinerating 8,200 tons of garbage per day and producing 2,500 MWh of energy. Recycling reuses plastics, cardboard, and paper to prevent more materials from being created and reduces emissions.

3. Universal access to clean and affordable fuels

Using sources of energy like coal can have terrible effects on the quality of air in cities; coal is one of the worst offenders, and also most often used by developing countries. Coal is usually used because it is cheap and affordable, but providing cleaner fuels like electricity is crucial to reducing air pollution and the overall health of a population.

4. Energy-efficient power production

The most energy content of energy sources is wasted by inefficiencies as the energy is converted and distributed. Supply chains can waste an incredible amount of energy – electricity, for example, has a loss of around 10% due to the resistance in electrical cables as energy is distributed from the grid to the consumer.

5. Encourage citizens to invest in energy-efficient practices

Encouraging consumers to invest in energy-efficient measures like energy-saving light bulbs, loft-insulation, switching off lights and choosing the fan over the AC.

6. Encourage other environmentally friendly practices

Recycling, growing a garden and using public transportation or biking are all ways in which inhabitants can be encouraged to be more environmentally friendly, therefore using less energy and reducing air pollution. Composting is also a great way to reduce waste, as is encouraging the use of second-hand items and reusing products rather than throwing them away.

Ashley Halsey

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