Photo illustrating manufacturing and Construction in Pakistan

The industrial and manufacturing sectors are rapidly expanding in lower and middle income countries. Photo: Karan Bhatia / Unsplash.

Polluting industries, including those from the manufacturing sector, are becoming increasingly prevalent in lower and middle income countries (LMICs) due in part to the globalization of trade, low labour costs and the spread of Western lifestyles. However, environmental and public health protection and resources to implement cleaner methods of production are severely lacking in many of these countries. As a consequence, there has been a rise in pollution-related chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease and strokes. Industrial pollution is also responsible for impacting the health of the general population due to contamination of air, drinking water, soil, crops, livestock, fish and other resources. Finally, climate change has been found to exacerbate the effects of pollutant exposure in developing countries by increasing concentrations of many chemicals in water, air, and sediment thereby the increasing sensitivity of crops and vegetation as well humans to the adverse effects of industrial pollution.

SMEP is led by SEI in conjunction with both the Department of Biology and the Department Environment and Geography at the University of York. Its focus is on manufacturing industries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, including textiles and clothing, leather, food processing, chemicals, rubber and plastics. The programme will undertake a systematic literature review and analysis of national and international datasets on trade and industry to improve our understanding of the scale, frequency, spatial extent, emissions and impacts associated with industrial activities as well as the economic and societal implications of such industry and how these change over time.

To translate levels of pollution into exposure and damage, SMEP will use internationally recognised exposure-response relationships (ERRs) and thresholds/guidelines for human health and environmental degradation to give a semi-quantitative assessment of damage from key industrial activities. These damage estimates will be scaled according to the level of industrial activity (e.g. number, size and location of activities) at national and sub-national levels to assess the risk from industrial pollution.

More detailed case studies will be conducted using ‘structured’ informant interviews/elite interviews with key stakeholders identified in the systematic review. These will gather more detailed information from stakeholders on their view of the main polluting industries, potential interventions and solutions, the benefits and dis-benefits of these interventions from the national/sub-national perspective. It will also explore the barriers to implementation of solutions that are identified. The data gathered from these structured interviews will complement data extracted from the comprehensive review of the literature on interventions/solutions, options and mechanisms to prevent, mitigate and remediate pollution and its consequences from industry.

SMEP will analyse and synthesize the data produced to develop key recommendations for interventions, by industry and by country. It will also identify important knowledge gaps and suggestions for future programmes of work that would most effectively lead to an enhanced understanding of how to move towards more sustainable industrial activities.These findings will be presented to policy makers and other stakeholders using a range of communication and visualization methods.

SEI’s SMEP project will help provide a solid scientific basis for the initial calls for proposals which will be launched as part of the broader DFID-UNCTAD SMEP programme, a GBP 25 million umbrella research initiative addressing the issue of manufacturing pollution in Africa and Asia.