Eight people have died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar and 350 have been hospitalized – 220 of them children, following the introduction of “safe” smokeless briquettes as the official alternative to coal. The first deaths were reported on 1 October.
The incorrect use of the briquettes or inappropriate stoves have been blamed for the loss of human life. Currently, over 350 employees from Tavan Tolgoi Fuel Company are working in the ger districts to teach people how to burn the briquettes and fix their stoves.
This year, the government put a ban on burning coal in the Mongolian capital where the winter temperature falls to as low as -40 Celsius. Ulaanbaatar is one of the most air-polluted cities of the world. Smoke from shantytown ger districts where over 220,000 families live, is the main culprit of Ulaanbaatar’s air-pollution.
In March, the Mongolian government decided to totally ban the use of raw coal. Household offenders will be fined 300,000 tugriks (USD 113), while large businesses will be fined 3 million tugriks (USD 1,134). As for today, a total of 36 violations of burning raw coal are reported in Ulaanbaatar.
In the light of the ban, the government is putting an alternative product on the market made from semi-coke, a by-product of coal. While more expensive, these fuel-efficient briquettes are said to burn twice as long and emit far less fumes.