Insights and Analysis

In Mongolia: Urban Air Pollution Threatens Human Health in Ulaanbaatar

January 29, 2007

By William Foerderer Infante

Last week, the editors of Mongolia’s major newspapers addressed an open letter to the resident international community on behalf of 1 million Mongolians and the 50,000 infants born every year whose health is compromised by chronically poor urban air quality in Ulaanbaatar and other Mongolian cities. The letter was a plea to help curb the choking urban pollution, caused by coal and wood-burning stoves used to heat and cook, and by inefficient and antiquated energy, industrial and transport infrastructure that emit particulates and other airborne wastes and greenhouse gases. During winter months in particular, urban air pollution obscures vision, and negatively impacts human health.

On January 30th, nearly a dozen and a half embassies, multinational organizations and international non-governmental organizations responded to inform Mongolians what they are doing to help reduce urban air pollution, citing short and long term initiatives underway. The World Bank, for instance, noted its five-year old “urban stoves program” which has introduced energy efficient stoves and cleaner burning briquettes, and the Asian Development Bank’s subsidy program for fuel-efficient stoves. But other remedies targeting inefficiencies in the generation, transmission and distribution of energy, heat and hot water were also identified, as were demand-side measures associated with curbing consumption. The international community appealed to the newspapers to continue publicizing the need for comprehensive and “holistic” planning and policy measures, to raise awareness and engage citizens themselves in efforts to reduce urban air pollution.

Related locations: Mongolia


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