REGIONAL SCIENCE–POLICY DIALOGUE ON
Organiser: ICIMOD and World Bank
ICIMOD headquarters, Nepal
14 December 2022 to 15 December 2022
The Indo-Gangetic Plain and Himalayan Foothills (IGP-HF) air quality management (AQM) science–policy dialogue will provide a platform for the four countries sharing the IGP-HF airshed to highlight their national AQM challenges; present national and regional opportunities; find commonalities with regional partner countries; exchange knowledge; facilitate partnerships for improving monitoring, decision making, and abatement actions; and explore financing opportunities.
The SPD is expected to strengthen awareness of the four countries of one another’s challenges and recent developments in AQM. It is also expected to contribute towards greater cooperation among the IGP-HF countries, which all share a common airshed. Concrete insights will be shared on the use of an air quality monitoring tool and the IGP-HF AQM Policy Planning tool. Furthermore, this SPD is expected to bring to the fore opportunities for regional partnerships and lead to initiatives at the regional level to tackle air pollution, which could be taken up in the World Bank’s and ICIMOD’s regional air quality engagements.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain – spanning Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan – has one of the most polluted airsheds in global comparison. In many places of the region, both urban and rural, air pollution has reached alarming levels, affecting the health of millions of people, particularly women, children, and the elderly; in each of these groups, the poor are the most vulnerable. The concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5) in the region are many-fold above WHO air quality guidelines. In the IGP-HF, it is often double to triple the least stringent WHO target (i.e. Interim Target 1, which is 35 µg/m3 of annual average). There is an even larger gap to the guideline that characterises clean air (which is a value of 5 µg/m3).
The socioeconomic impact of this slow-motion disaster on the environment, human health, and society is immense. The estimated costs in health care and loss of productivity due to air pollution in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka include 1.75 million premature deaths each year collectively in these countries, welfare losses equivalent to between 4.7% and 7.8% of GDP, depending on the country, and forgone labour output of between 0.47% and 0.8% of their GDP, depending on the country.
The largest sources of air pollution in the IGP-HF are similar for all four countries: household emissions from cookstoves, open burning of agricultural residue, industrial sources (such as brick kilns), transportation (especially diesel engines), and solid-waste burning. Hence, there is a strong imperative to foster cross-country knowledge exchanges, particularly focussing on best practices and success stories. In addition, the pollution from one country, or subnational area inside a country, may have a significant environmental and human impact elsewhere, given the transboundary nature of the air pollution challenge and the airflows across different countries. Therefore, it is vital for the countries to coordinate their monitoring, planning, and abatement design efforts.
Climate change is closely related to the air pollution challenges in these countries. The sources of air pollution mentioned above are the same sources that contribute to climate change. Moreover, much like for the air pollution challenge, the IGP-HF region also has significant climate mitigation externalities – the IGP-HF currently contributes to about 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Policies that reduce air pollution also simultaneously reduce short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon, which are of particularly potent climate forcers.
The four countries of the region have articulated their ambitions for cleaner South Asian air, in Vision 2030, during a high-level World Bank Spring Meeting event in 2021 titled ‘Solutions for Improved Air Quality and Green Recovery in South Asia’.
ICIMOD is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre serving the eight Regional Member Countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan – and is based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Their Regional Programme on Atmosphere aims to improve understanding of air pollutant emissions, atmospheric processes and change, and impacts and promote mitigation and policy solutions while building awareness, capacity, and collaboration in the HKH and upwind regions. The programme aims to promote the adoption of effective measures and policies to reduce air pollution and its impacts within the HKH through improved knowledge and enhanced capacity of our regional partners. They engage in generating data and evidence; identifying, testing, and piloting mitigation solutions; capacity building and outreach; fostering regional collaboration and cross-border network building; and contributing to policy at local, national, regional, and global levels.
The World Bank has been working on AQM in all countries of the IGP-HF. On the one hand, the World Bank has developed several air quality investment projects in different countries such as the Punjab Green Development Project (PGDP) in Pakistan and the Bangladesh Environmental Sustainability and Transformation (BEST) project. The World Bank is currently also working on developing air quality projects in several states in India, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Haryana. It has supported policy reforms that are critical for reducing air pollution by incentivising cleaner alternatives, such as the Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development (GRID) Policy Credit of Nepal, where a reduction of the import costs of electric vehicles was supported.
The World Bank has also launched the development of the IGP-HF Air Quality Policy Planning tool, which is currently being piloted in several countries and will be expanded to additional countries. This tool will enable decision makers to critically understand air pollution sources in different areas of scale (from local, to national, to regional), and also the effectiveness and cost of engineering and technological solutions. Through its regional programme, the World Bank seeks to continue supporting regional dialogues, develop the IGP-HF AQM Policy Planning tool for each country in the IGP-HF (creating a nested regional tool), and work on concrete air quality solutions.
The SPD will take place over two days.
Technical discussions on improving air quality management in the IGP-HF
Objectives: Day 1 will focus on the scientific and technical inputs necessary for AQM policy making in the IGP-HF. Rather than going into technical details of modelling, this session will focus on presenting initial results and identifying capacity gaps for the full development of the regional air quality policy tool. The discussions will involve the following:
Chair: Bidya Banmali Pradhan, Regional Programme Manager, Atmosphere, ICIMOD
(15 min presentation & 10 min Q&A)
(15 min presentation & 15 min Q&A)
(20 min presentation & 10 min Q&A)
Process flow, scaling, and governance (local, provincial, national and regional). Drawing on experience from convention on LRTAP. How important was a continuous regional dialogue and regional AQM tools in the success of LRTAP? European experience in data harmonisation, and nesting of information (from local, to national, to regional)
Discussion moderated by Jostein Nygard, Senior Environmental Specialist, World Bank (20 min)
Moderated by Mohamed Rabi Qazizada, Programme Officer, ICIMOD, and Eun Joo Yi, Senior Environmental Specialist, World Bank
Moderated by Bhupesh Adhikary, Senior Air Quality Specialist, ICIMOD, and Jostein Nygard, Senior Environmental Specialist, World Bank
Moderated by Siva Praveen Puppala, Programme Coordinator, ICIMOD, and Martin Heger, Senior Environmental Economist, World Bank
Moderated by Bidya Banmali Pradhan, Regional Programme, ICIMOD, and Christopher James Warner, Senior Environmental Economist, World Bank
– Bangladesh delegation representative
– India delegation representative
– Nepal delegation representative
– Pakistan delegation representative
Moderated by Martin Heger, Senior Environmental Economist, World Bank
High-level discussions on air quality management in the Indo-Gangetic Plain and Himalayan foothills
Day 2 will focus on high-level discussions on AQM policies in the IGP-HF. Specifically, the discussions will focus on the following:
Chair: Cecile Fruman, Director for Regional Integration and Engagement in the South Asia Region, World Bank (from beginning to 14:20) and Bidya Banmali Pradhan, Regional Programme Manager, Atmosphere, ICIMOD (from 14:20 to end)
Launch of World Bank flagship study:
‘Striving for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia’
Moderated by Sahana Bajracharya, Moderator
Moderated by Sahana Bajracharya, moderator
– Challenges and opportunities for pollution abatement (initiatives, policies, future directions)
Moderated by Cecile Fruman, Director for Regional Integration and Engagement in the South Asia Region, World Bank
Hideki Mori, Operations Manager, World Bank, India
Dandan Chen, Acting Country Director, Bangladesh
Bidya Banmali Pradhan, Regional Programme Manager, Atmosphere, ICIMOD
– Cross-border airflows
– Mutual benefits
– Incentives and collaboration structures
What is needed to get to more regional coordination:
– Establish communities of practice across countries
– Regional science–policy platform
– Harmonised data and policy planning tool adoption
Brief remarks on and endorsement of the agreements for regional AQM coordination
Signing of the Kathmandu roadmap by countries (facilitated by ICIMOD)
Way forward and next steps (ICIMOD and World Bank)
Christophe Crepin, Manager, Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy Global Practice in South Asia, World Bank (joining virtually)