Topic Guide: Urban poverty, urban pollution and environmental management

This guide examines the environmental impacts of urban areas, especially good practice in reducing pollution


Urban areas can be among the world’s most healthy places to live and work – but also among the least healthy.

This Topic Guide provides a summary of what is known about the environmental impacts of urban areas with a particular focus on urban pollution and on good practice in reducing it. Urban pollution encompasses the exposure of urban populations to pathogens (disease-causing agents) and chemical pollutants in the home, workplace, neighbourhood and wider city.

This guide also:

  • considers links between poverty and pollution in urban areas, i.e. where and how do low-income women, men and children get higher levels of exposure, and the impacts on health, incomes, assets and livelihoods;
  • focuses on urban pollution within the informal settlements and cheap boarding houses that are home to around one billion urban dwellers in low- and middle-income nations;
  • covers the exposure of populations and ecosystems outside urban boundaries to urban pollution and how a consideration of climate change needs to be integrated into this.

Urban areas often have damaging impacts on the areas around them that affect both the health of the inhabitants and resources, including freshwater resources and protective and productive ecosystem services.

This guide also covers:

  • global environmental issues (especially climate change) and
  • the implications of urban pollution and the consequences for development.

This peer reviewed Topic Guide has been produced by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited.


Satterthwaite, D. Topic Guide: Urban poverty, urban pollution and environmental management. Evidence on Demand, UK (2015) 80 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_tg.march2015.satterwaited]

Topic Guide: Urban poverty, urban pollution and environmental management

Published 1 January 2015