Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar recorded a year-on-year decrease in the density of hazardous fine particulate matter PM2.5 in the first two weeks of November, the city’s Air Pollution Reduction Department said. The average concentration of PM2.5 in the air of Ulaanbaatar dropped to around 120 micrograms per cubic meter during the period, down 55 percent from a year earlier. In the meanwhile, the average density of PM10 stood at 170 micrograms per cubic meter, down 38 percent year on year, it said in a statement.
Ulaanbaatar is one of the most air-polluted cities of the world as half of the country’s population immigrated to the city. Smoke from shantytown ger districts where over 220,000 families live, is the main culprit of Ulaanbaatar’s air-pollution. 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.
In March, the Mongolian government decided to totally ban the use of raw coal. Household offenders are being fined 300,000 tugriks (USD 113), while large businesses – 3 million tugriks (USD 1,134). As of today, a total of 36 violations of burning raw coal have been reported in Ulaanbaatar. In addition, the city stepped up efforts to check the use of the raw coal fuel, with 7 tons of raw coal seized since October.
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. However, 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 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 still working in the ger districts to teach people how to burn the briquettes and fix their stoves.