Urban air pollution and inequalities in fast-industrialising countries
This scoping study aimed to investigate the social, economic and political (SEP) impacts of chronic ambient (outdoor) air pollutions on low-income communities in the fast industrialising countries. Its main purpose was to lay the foundation for a large comparative case study of two mega cities, Beijing and Delhi, to understand how the poor people living in these cities are affected by the persistent urban air pollution and how an inclusive policy process can be developed to address these inequalities associated with air pollution.
- Sustainable Development Goals
This project examined the following SDGs:
SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being
SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities
SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
Find out more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
We aimed to understand the dynamic and complex relations between ambient air pollution, health and SEP disparities in the mega cities in Beijing and Delhi, and explore the possibility of achieving more inclusive, fair, and accountable regulation system to combat air pollution.
We asked the following questions:
- In what way and to what extent are the impacts of ambient air pollutions distributed unequally?
- How does current anti-pollution policy process contribute to these inequalities?
- What innovative measures or practices are emerging, or can be adopted, to reduce air pollution more equally, and how could such measures and practices be supported by more inclusive institutions?
This research initiative was designed as an inter-disciplinary and multi-methods research project that combined IDS and local experts previously working on environmental politics, human geography, public administration, political economy, and social anthropology. The research helped to reinforce the cooperation between the UK, Chinese and Indian researchers for implementing an ambitious research plan on air pollution and inequality. In addition, local communities and policymakers were engaged with via interviews and workshops organised and led by UK and local researchers.
This research sought to influence local policymakers and change current policies that are often aiming to reduce average pollution levels and health damages, rather than targeting specific groups of people that are particularly vulnerable. In addition, the project aimed to tremendously enhance public awareness of disadvantaged groups' interests, and hopefully, more social organisations and public services would be channelled to reduce SEP disparities. Lastly, China and India as the most polluted and fast-growing economies, their efforts to promote more inclusive and accountable policy system to combat urban air pollution would produce exemplary effects to other highly polluted cities in the global South.
Timeline and funding
February 2018-February 2019
- Tackling the challenges of urban air pollution – why does air pollution impact inequality as well as health?
- Principle Investigator (PI) and Co-Investigators
- Project team
- Dr Gordon McGranahan, Institute of Development Studies
- Dr Shilpi Srivastava, Institute of Development Studies
- Dr Patrick Schroder, Institute of Development Studies
- Dr Stephen Spratt, Institute of Development Studies
- Dr Lichao Yang, Beijing Normal University
- Qian Liu, CUFE, Beijing
- Dr Ashish Chaturevedi, GIZ, India, The Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS, India)
Where we worked
Beijing and Delhi.