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World Resources 1996-97
(A joint publication by The World Resource Institute, The United
 Nations Environment Programme, The United Nations Development
 Programme, and the World Bank)
(Data edited by Dr. Róbinson Rojas)

5. Urban Priorities for Action

Box 5.2 Forging a Combined Approach to Urban
                 Pollution Control

Cities have a wide array of tools at their disposal to tackle environmental problems. Regulatory tools, such as legal restrictions on the quantity of pollutants a factory can discharge or minimum air and water quality standards, have been particularly effective in curbing pollution in the developed world. Their effectiveness relies on good monitoring and enforcement capabilities--capabilities that are in their infancy in many of the developing nations where urban growth pressures and pollution problems are greatest (1) (2).

Making the regulatory approach more effective and affordable in developing cities will require a more flexible approach in setting such regulations, taking into account local pollutant loads, the characteristics of nearby water bodies and air basins, and the community's water and air quality goals. In many cases, policies are set by national governments and do not reflect local needs. For instance, water quality standards may not be strict enough to protect some coastal urban waters with poor circulation from pollution damage and may be too strict for other better-flushed waters, resulting in expensive overcontrol (3). Giving local governments the authority to set their own environmental standards can have positive benefits (4). In Osaka, Japan, environmental standards for air, water, soil pollution, noise, and vibration are in some cases stricter than national standards (5).

Economic instruments can also be powerful tools for modifying behavior, often at less cost than regulatory instruments. Thus, making use of economic instruments such as effluent taxes, sewer fees, and tradable discharge or emission permits can help cities lessen the rigidity and expense of the regulatory, or command-and-control, approach. These market-based strategies do not specify the use of any particular pollution control technology; rather, they give polluters the flexibility and incentive to find the most cost-efficient means of achieving pollution control targets. Economic instruments tend to be underutilized and are particularly promising for developing cities that can least afford high regulatory costs (6).

Pollution taxes, which are levied on the basis of the quantity of pollutants released, provide a direct financial disincentive for excessive pollution. They can be especially useful where government budgets for environmental programs are limited--a situation that describes most cities--because they provide a revenue source that can be tapped to fund enforcement efforts (7). While pollution taxes are in fairly common use today even in developing countries, they are often set too low to have the desired effect (8) (9). Furthermore, these instruments rely on strict monitoring and enforcement to be effective, just as traditional regulatory approaches do, so they are not a shortcut to pollution control. In fact, they are more likely to work hand-in- hand with traditional command-and-control approaches (10) (11).

Izmir, Turkey, provides an example of a combined approach to pollution control using both effluent standards and an economic instrument--a sewer charge. In attempting to address industrial pollution, national effluent standards were adapted to local conditions and set out in a municipal ordinance. The Izmir Water and Sewerage Authority was charged with monitoring and policing the ordinance, and, through threats of factory closures and fines, has prompted a number of larger industries to build pretreatment facilities for their wastes. The municipality also assesses a sewer charge based on the volume of industrial wastes discharged into the sewer system, the idea being to motivate industries to treat their effluents themselves to the point that they can be discharged to surface waters rather than dumped into the sewer system. Although in their infancy, these programs seem to have achieved some success so far (12).

Few tools available to city managers will work without institutional ability to enforce the regulations, or without the staff to collect fees and taxes (13) (14).

References and Notes

1. Robert Adler, "Reauthorizing the Clean Water Act: Looking to Tangible Values," Water Resources Bulletin, Vol. 30, No. 5 (1994), p. 803.

2. Janis D. Bernstein, Alternative Approaches to Pollution Control and Waste Management, Urban Management and the Environment, Report No. 3 (The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1993), pp. 5-8.

3. Op. cit. 2.

4. Brendan Barrett, "Integrated Environmental Management--Experience in Japan," Journal of Environmental Management, Vol. 40, No. 1 (January 1994), p. 20.

5. Ibid., p. 21.

6. The World Bank, World Development Report 1992: Development and the Environment (The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1992), p. 13.

7. Gunnar Eskeland and Emmanuel Jimenez, "Curbing Pollution in Developing Countries," Finance and Development, Vol. 28, No. 1 (March 1991), pp. 15-18.

8. Carter Brandon and Ramesh Ramankutty, Toward an Environmental Strategy for Asia, World Bank Discussion Paper No. 224 (The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1993), p. 76.

9. Op. cit. 7.

10. Op. cit. 2, pp. 10-26.

11. William Tuohy, "Neglect of Market Incentives in Local Environmental Planning: A Case Study in the National Estuary Program," Coastal Management, Vol. 22 (1994), pp. 82-83.

12. Janis D. Bernstein, "Alternative Approaches to Pollution Control and Waste Management: Regulatory and Economic Instruments," Urban Management Programme Discussion Paper No. 3 (The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1993), pp. 30-34.

13. Op. cit. 8, p. 78.

14. Op. cit. 7.

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