UB has world’s worst air - twice as bad as 2nd place city

UB’s air pollution threatens Mongolia’s genetic fund

Thousands and thousands of chimneys in Ulaanbaatar’s vast gher districts, continuously pour-out thick smoke
President Ts. Elbegdorj pays special attention to air pollution in Ulaanbaatar and in recent days has worked intensively on this matter. On January 13-14, President Elbegdorj visited the 12th Khoroo of Chingeltei District to partake in the ‘Clean Air’ project implemented by the Millennium Challenge Account- Mongolia. During his visit, the President exchanged views with residents on reducing seasonal airpollution. Also, the Citizens’ Hall under the Office of the President of Mongolia held an open discussion on January 17 about a Bill to reduce air  pollution in Ulaanbaatar. On January 13, President Elbegdorj’s working visit kickedoff with  stop at the Model Gher of Millennium Challenge Account- Mongolia. By the proposal of the Government of Mongolia, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia initiated the Project ‘Clean Air’ in 2010, with initial research completed in 2009.
The main aim of the project is to reduce burned coal emissions in the air (the root cause of the city’s air pollution) by introducing energy and heat-efficient accommodations and  products in everyday life. The first round of distribution of discounted gher covers has already started in the 12th Khoroo of Chingeltei District.
“Even though use of energyefficient products is one of many ways to reduce urban air-pollution, it is unique in a sense that citizens derive direct economic benefits” said S. Bayarbaatar, Director of the Millennium Challenge Account- Mongolia.
Even on a ‘good day’, air pollution obscures any view of Ulaanbaatar from surrounding hilltops
“We are introducing means to provide more warmth with less financial distress. Residents participating in the project enjoy a  70-80 percent discount on purchasing covers and barns for ghers. Currently, over 7 thousand families have already utilized this offer. We have calculations showing that using additional covers and barns will save heat costs by about 30 percent. Even the residents say they can feel the difference” said S. Mangal, Director of Project ‘Clean Air’ The Family of Munkhjargal, residing in the 12th Khoroo, uses additional covers and barns provided by the project. Their gher is warmer, and is without any smell of coal. “The purchase was discounted by the project and it is very convenient and simple to use. We think that if every gher utilized the covers and energy-efficient stoves, air pollution in the city will no longer be a threat. I would like to call our fellow residents to refrain from using waste and chemical rubbers, and start to use gher
covers,” says Khandkhuu, wife of Munkhjargal.
The family is using an energyefficient stove ‘Silver’ made in Turkey, which produces more than a sufficient amount of heat. Coal consumption has dropped from the previous 2-3 sacks of coal daily, to only half a sack  of coal for 12 hours. Coal particles are completely burned inside the stove without escaping to the outside air, thus eliminating smoke and odor emissions. Project specialists say the price offer for energy-efficient ‘Silver’ will be same as the regular ones.
The stoves in most ghers produce the highest levels of pollution
Following his visit to the Model Gher, President Elbegdorj met with residents of 12th Khoroo, and exchanged views on the means to decrease air pollution. Residents repeatedly stated the reduction of electricity prices at night is the most optimal way. Even though residents make efforts to reduce smoke by using electric heaters at
home, high electricity prices make this practice unpopular. Moreover, discounted distribution of gher covers and energy-efficient stoves will have good results, they said. 
President Elbegdorj has also visited the family of M. Ariunbold, who uses three electronic heaters each of 0.7 kilowatts capacity, as their main solution. “They provide us with more  warmth than using coal. We pay Tgs30
thousand per month for electricity payments, which is two times less than the purchase of coal per month,” they said. Project specialists stated that the heater ‘Teplofon’ is safe for human health, and has a warranty of
15-20 years.
The President of Mongolia previously stated that the level of air pollution has reached the crisis level. “We have to implement efficient measures without losing any more time,” the President said. “The research of some international organizations, show that Ulaanbaatar is a city with the most air pollution in the world. Air pollution in the city following Ulaanbaatar is only half as bad. Today, the health of our residents has deteriorated at an alarming level.
There are newborns with permanent lung-defects and residents living in some areas suffer health damage which equals the smoking of 4-5 packs of cigarettes a day. Almost every patient in hospitals is diagnosed with smoke intoxication, and the urban population suffers 6 times more respiratory and lung diseases than the  rural population. There are more serious concerns as this pollution threatens the genetic fund of the people of Mongolia.” President Elbegdorj added.
“Measures such as the creation of a new energy source, increasing the energy output by renovating existing lines and sub-stations, discounting electricity prices, creating rawcoal free zones, and supporting and intensifying activities of air-pollution projects should be implemented promptly. The National Security Council will discuss this issue without delay, and will pass a specific decision soon,” he concluded.
The next day or on January 14, the president continued his visit to gher areas in Ulaanbaatar and got familiar on-site with how residents deal with the issues of smoke and firewood. First, he visited resident M. Battor’s home. The host said, “I have been living in Ulaanbaatar for about 40 years of which I have been living in Chingeltei District for 29 years. I  never imagined that Ulaanbaatar city would reach today’s disastrous level of pollution. Trying not to pollute our city as much as we could, we heat our house with electricity. Electricity costs are high in winter time, but we do not have any other ways. Using an electric heater has the advantage of being clean and not losing heat.” During this visit, specialists measured air pollution inside Battor’s home with specific equipment and the measurement showed that air pollution inside the home is 8-times higher than the standard level. The measurement made outside showed 20-times higher. The President also saw a miniexhibition of items and products being used to reduce air pollution displayed by resident Battor in his yard. The President said, “There are over 10 methods, even though they are loweffective to reduce air pollution.
They need further experimenting to be introduced into reality. As for gher covers, if gher area residents warm
up their ghers in accordance with the  standard, specialists say that smoke will decrease by 30 percent. It shows the significance of people to fight pollution.”
Later, the President and accompanying officials walked up to Zurkh Mountain in Chingeltei District, where they saw how Ulaanbaatar looks. Specialists and citizens said that it was a slightly better day, but Ulaanbaatar was difficult to be visible and had black fog.
Afterwards, the President chose two families whose ghers’ chimneys emitted black smoke and visited to see what kind of firewood those families were using and how they lived. The first family the president visited was P. Lkhagva’s. The hostess said that the family mostly burns tire rubber to warm the home and rarely uses coal. Really, it smells rubber from the stove.
The family moved from rural area to Ulaanbaatar and the family’s children do not have jobs. Their gher has no
warm cover or firewood outside. The president presented them with warm gher cover.
The family the President visited was burning rubber and wastes. Old man Ch. Baatarnyam did not keep secret his burning waste in order to warm up the gher. The family only has earnings of disability pension. Actually, the survey indicated that the most polluted smoke is made by the poorest families. The President stated, “Unarranged coordination of migration caused the expansion of gher areas, especially the increase of poor families; therefore, it necessitates coordinating migration.” 
On January 17, a Bill on Reduction of Air Pollution of Ulaanbaatar was openly discussed at the Citizen Hall under the Office of the President of Mongolia. Some MPs and officials from relevant ministries, non-government organizations, city administration and Millennium Challenge Account participated and expressed their opinions.
D. Battulga, head of the Office of the President of Mongolia, introduced the Bill. He stated, “At an extended eeting of the National Security Council of Mongolia, held on January 13, an issue on Ulaanbaatar’s smoke and air pollution was discussed and it was decided to make a Law. 
With the  Law, zones where air quality should be improved will be defined and relations in connection with regimes to be enforced and legal status will be  regulated. In the Bill, gher areas so called Denjiin Myanga, Zuun Ail and gher areas in the north to the 3rd micro district have been involved in the zone. It was also stated to reduce existing night tariffs of electricity by 50 percent to Tgs20 per kilowatt, satisfy the reliable operation of electricity meters and electricity substations,  resolve financial issues with the State Budget adjustment, establish a National Committee Against Air Pollution under the Parliament, take legal actions to officials and citizens who break the law, as well as others. We intend to submit this Bill to Parliament on January 21 for discussion.” During the discussion, it was also touched upon about a direction given to government about the construction of a 5th Electric Power Station in Ulaanbaatar. MP S. Oyun asked when it would be possible to complete construction of the 5th Electric Power Station. In turn, D. Battulga said, “The estimation shows that there is potential to receive 40 megaWatts of electricity from Gusinoozersk State Regional Electric Power Station of Russia and produce domestically 25-30 megaWatts. By doing so, 30,000 households can be involved. Gher covers, stoves and heaters will be sold at reduced prices under the Millennium Challenge Account’s project. The 5th Electric Power Station will be constructed on the base of the 3rd Power Station. If it is constructed fast, it is possible to put the first stove into utilization within this year.” A citizen asked, “Air is polluted with dust as well. What has the bill stated about that?” In response, D. Battulga answered, “Ulaanbaatar’s soil has been totally polluted and is impossible to be rehabilitated.” Ulaanbaatar Mayor G. Monkhbayar made a suggestion to exempt equipment required for liquefied gas fuel industry from VAT and customs duty. Also MP L. Gantomor said that heaters meeting with the standard will be involved in concession. Participants in the discussion gave many suggestions such as banning the use of petroleum and diesel fuels with lead, conducting propaganda on dangers of air pollution, using renewable energy, banning the import of used cars as well as others. At the end, Mr. Battulga said that the Working Group would consider all suggestions.
source: The Mongol Messenger newspaper


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