Published on Eurasian Perspectives

The air pollution burden in Tbilisi, Georgia, is unequally distributed

This page in:
Smog clouds over Tbilisi Smog clouds over Tbilisi

In Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, air pollution levels exceed international standards, significantly surpassing other cities in the region. An innovative study conducted by the World Bank provides new evidence that air pollution adversely affects the health, labor productivity, and economic outcomes of Tbilisi’s residents. This research demonstrates that the impact of air pollution is not evenly distributed, with poorer and less-educated households more exposed to air pollution and having lower adaptive capacity. As such, the findings of our study emphasize the importance of considering socioeconomic impacts when designing pollution reduction policies. We also show that better knowledge of the effects of air pollution and access to monitoring devices as well as protective measures are likely to help households in Tbilisi take adaptive actions in the short-term. In the medium term, decreasing emissions from transportation and regulating industrial emissions should be considered a priority for creating a more sustainable, livable Tbilisi.

Leveraging innovative data sources and methods.

Our study collected real-time air pollution data from 40 outdoor monitors strategically placed throughout Tbilisi. We also leveraged data from the official air pollution monitors and satellite imagery reanalysis. This comprehensive data collection enabled the assessment of outdoor air pollution's sources and impacts. Our study also explores indoor air pollution sources and impacts thanks to the distribution of 145 indoor air pollution monitor to randomly selected households in Tbilisi.

Location of project?s outdoor and indoor monitors
Figure 1: Location of project’s outdoor and indoor monitors
Source: Snapshot of real time PurpleAir measures taken on March 27, 2023. Circles with a black border are indoor air pollution monitors and circles without border are outdoor monitors.

To analyze the collected data, we employed innovative and rigorous methodologies, such as instrumental variable estimation to estimate the causal impacts of air pollution on health and real estate values and a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) to test the impact of information on adaptation and exposure. The experiment provides three different types of treatment corresponding to households receiving different information on air pollution: a leaflet with information on air pollution, daily text messages with outdoor air pollution levels, and an indoor air pollution monitor. 

Key Findings:

  • Concentration of outdoor air pollution is highest in the city center due to Tbilisi's unique geographical characteristics. Factors like weather patterns, traffic congestion, and industrial emissions contribute significantly to high pollution levels. 
  • Air pollution in Tbilisi increases the likelihood of respiratory and mental health diseases. A 1 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 concentration leads to a 2.2% rise in hospitalizations for respiratory ailments and a 4.4% increase in mental health-related hospitalizations. 
  • Housing values are negatively affected by air pollution, with every 1 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 associated with up to a 1% decrease in rent. Clean air is considered a crucial factor in choosing where to live.
  • Socioeconomic disparities exist in exposure to air pollution. Poorer and less-educated households experience higher levels of pollution and have lower adaptive capacity. Wealthier and more educated households experience lower pollution levels and possess better knowledge about the impacts of air pollution, making them more likely to take adaptive actions and own protective devices.
  • Indoor air pollution levels are higher than outdoor pollution due to factors like cooking, smoking, and building insulation. 

Selected report?s result showing that traffic congestion is extremely high in the center of Tbilisi (Red=more traffic).
Figure 2: Selected report’s result showing that traffic congestion is extremely high in the center of Tbilisi (Red=more traffic).
Source: Authors calculation using Mapbox for traffic data

Policy Implications

  • Prioritize reducing emissions from transportation, particularly addressing traffic congestion in the city center. Traffic jams significantly contribute to increased air pollution levels and tackling this issue should be a primary focus. 
  • Regulate industrial emissions to support the green transition and reduce air pollution in Tbilisi. Industrial sites, particularly those in the southeast, have a notable negative impact on air quality. 
  • Increase awareness about air pollution risks and adaptive measures among households. Providing targeted information campaigns and incentives for adopting protective devices, such as air purifiers, can empower households to take self-protective actions. 

Next steps:

We anticipate the collection of the second survey data, which will follow the implementation of the RCT treatments, by the end of June 2023. These results will provide insights into the costs and benefits of providing information on air pollution through leaflets, real-time outdoor air quality updates, and indoor air monitors. This will contribute to identifying the most efficient policies to address information constraints and combat air pollution effectively in Tbilisi. 

By addressing the socioeconomic impact, implementing emission reduction strategies, and enhancing public awareness, Tbilisi can pave the way towards cleaner air and improved well-being for its residents. And lessons learned here could prove useful for cities across the region and beyond. 


Sebastian Molineus

Sebastian Molineus, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus

Alan Fuchs Tarlovsky

Lead Economist in the Middle East and North Africa Region, Poverty and Equity Global Practice

Sandra Baquie

World Bank Group Young Professional

Patrick Behrer

Economist, Development Research Group

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000