2 Erdenet Shutterstock 1166023537

Improving air quality in seven cities in Asia

"It has been great to work with the Ricardo team over the past five years. Together with our city partners, we’ve made great steps forward in producing Clean Air Action Plans"



Poor air quality has devastating impacts on many cities in Asia, affecting life expectancy, wellbeing and quality of life for billions of people with knock-on economic impacts which disproportionality affect women, children, elderly people, and the poor. Air pollution results in an estimated four million early deaths in Asia every year. Contributory factors include low institutional capacity, inappropriate air quality policies, strategies, plans, programs, laws, regulations, and standards; an absence of reliable baseline data for monitoring air pollution; lack of awareness of the effects of air pollution among policymakers, the general public, and other stakeholders; and a lack of financial support for implementing improvement measures. 

To make progress in improving air quality, the Asian Development Bank (ABD) conducted a regional Knowledge and Support Technical Assistance (KSTA) program with the objective of building a business case for air quality management investment through the preparation of city-level Clean Air Action Plans (CAAPs). The KSTA was conducted in seven cities in five participating DMCs (Developing Member Countries): Faridpur in Bangladesh, Erdenet in Mongolia, Peshawar and Sialkot in Pakistan, La Trinidad in the Philippines, and Ho Chi Minh and Vinh Yen in Vietnam.

Prior to this contract, Ricardo had been working with the ADB for a number of years providing expertise to help deliver air quality improvements across the region including developing air quality action plans for cities in China. This, in conjunction with our strong technical expertise in the implementation of monitoring, inventory and modelling projects both in the UK and globally, put Ricardo’s team in a strong position to lead this project. Partnering with a leading regional organisation, Clean Air Asia – renowned for expertise in stakeholder engagement and supporting cities with their air quality activities – was also key to ensuring a world-class team was brought together to deliver this project.


Ricardo led the project, working closely with partners including Clean Air Asia, and local experts. We developed a robust air quality evidence base to support the development of city-specific Clean Air Action Plans (CAAPs). To develop the evidence base Ricardo provided key technical expertise, supporting the procurement and deployment of air quality sensors, and developing baseline emission inventories and air quality models. This served to highlight the key sectors in each city that were contributing the most to air pollution, enabling actions to be developed to address the specific local issues, and to allow a short list of priority actions to be developed.

Extensive stakeholder engagement activities were an essential component of the project. This ensured that the actions in the CAAPs to reduce air pollution were in line with local requirements and that the CAAP was adopted and championed by local entities during development and after project completion. Ricardo further supported this process by modelling the impact on air quality and health of key actions proposed to reduce air pollution. This served as evidence for stakeholders as to the likely impact of actions to support the future implementation of the CAAPs.  Further support was provided through technical training and capacity building, and awareness raising for air pollution issues.

By compiling learning throughout the project, Ricardo was able to develop tailored clean air action plans for each city. Each CAAP included a financing and investment plan that sets out how improvements could be funded, including optimising green finance and climate co-benefits.


Karma Yangzom, ADB’s focal person for air quality management in the Environment Thematic Group said:

“It has been great to work with the Ricardo team over the past five years. Together with our city partners, we’ve made great steps forward in producing Clean Air Action Plans and providing technical training and support. We’re looking forward to helping to build on this to deliver clean air solutions for our partner cities, and extend the program more widely throughout Asia through the ‘Asia Clean Blue Skies’ program".

The CAAPs developed in this project will be used by cities to evidence requests for investments which will deliver lasting air quality improvements for some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

As a result of the project, city stakeholders have increased capacity around air quality monitoring and inventory development. In addition, city officials have a better understanding of how pollution from the sectors in their city with the highest emissions can be mitigated, and the health and economic benefits possible from these investments.

The project has served as a successful model for supporting cities in their activities to improve local air quality and the ADB is looking to replicate similar activities in the region.


Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Start and end dates

08/2019 - 11/2023


Asia (various)

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