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The impact of economic agglomeration on water pollutant emissions from the perspective of spatial spillover effects


Whether economic agglomeration can promote improvement in environmental quality is of great importance not only to China’s pollution prevention and control plans but also to its future sustainable development. Based on the COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) and NH3-N (Ammonia Nitrogen) emissions Database of 339 Cities at the city level in China, this study explores the impact of economic agglomeration on water pollutant emissions, including the differences in magnitude of the impact in relation to city size using an econometric model. The study also examines the spillover effect of economic agglomeration, by conducting univariate and bivariate spatial autocorrelation analysis. The results show that economic agglomeration can effectively reduce water pollutant emissions, and a 1% increase in economic agglomeration could lead to a decrease in COD emissions by 0.117% and NH3-N emissions by 0.102%. Compared with large and megacities, economic agglomeration has a more prominent effect on the emission reduction of water pollution in small- and medium- sized cities. From the perspective of spatial spillover, the interaction between economic agglomeration and water pollutant emissions shows four basic patterns: high agglomeration-high emissions, high agglomeration-low emissions, low agglomeration-high emissions, and low agglomeration-low emissions. The results suggest that the high agglomeration-high emissions regions are mainly distributed in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Shandong Peninsula, and the Harbin-Changchun urban agglomeration; thus, local governments should consider the spatial spillover effect of economic agglomeration in formulating appropriate water pollutant mitigation policies.

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Author information

Correspondence to Hanchu Liu.

Additional information

Foundation: The Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.XDA23020101; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41971164, No.41671126

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Zhou, K., Liu, H. & Wang, Q. The impact of economic agglomeration on water pollutant emissions from the perspective of spatial spillover effects. J. Geogr. Sci. 29, 2015–2030 (2019).

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  • economic agglomeration
  • water pollutant emissions
  • emission reduction effect
  • city size
  • bivariate spatial autocorrelation
  • spatial spillover effect