The Mongolian government has taken the decision to ban the consumption of raw coal in Ulaanbaatar starting from 15 May 2019 in an attempt to reduce air pollution in the capital. About 202 thousand households in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar burn 1.1 million tons of raw coal each winter, which produce around 80 percent of the smog which envelopes the city. The plan is to conduct an ecological ‘revolution’, turning from raw coal and replacing it with 600 thousand tonnes of briquettes, thereby drastically decreasing air pollution. The briquettes will be made from coal powder by Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi and will be sold at the same price as the raw coal currently used. Is this the golden bullet to the pollution problem? Many people living in the ger districts think not, stating that the briquettes do not generate as much heat and are currently more expensive than the raw coal. At present, 25kg of briquettes is being sold for MNT 3750; pricier than raw coal by MNT 200-700.
Meantime, the government has been trying with limited resources to put a dent in the problem. Subsidies have been offered to families for stoves that produce less pollution, and since January 2017, electricity in many of the city’s highest-polluting districts has been made free at night, when pollution levels are always at their most severe.