Issues & Ideas: Tackling air pollution in Mongolia

Mar 7, 2018

A view of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and the ger areas that surround it. When newcomers migrate to the capital they often bring their traditional tents or gers with them.
Credit Katya Cengel

Cal Poly Adjunct Professor, Katya Cengel reports from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia--long known as the land of the eternal blue sky, but rapid urban migration is changing that.

The once nomadic population increasingly  now lives in cities with approximately 45 percent of the population, or one million people, living in the capital of Ulaanbaatar. 

The majority of them, 60 percent, live in ger areas that often lack basic services such as sewer systems, running water and trash collection.

The coal that area residents burn to warm their homes is the main cause of winter air pollution that now rivals Beijing’s.

A view of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and the ger areas that surround it. When newcomers migrate to the capital they often bring their traditional tents or gers with them.
Credit Katya Cengel

Among those trying to improve the situation in ger areas are residents themselves who are trying to redesign the traditional Mongolian tent or ger to be more environmentally friendly while also keeping alive Mongolian traditions.

Read more about the work being done in Mongolia to combat air pollution on Katya Cengel's NPR "Goats And Soda"  post: 

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/03/04/589271101/to-fight-pollution-hes-reinventing-the-mongolian-tent

Cal Poly State University Adjunct Professor Katya Cengel is the author of the upcoming Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back. Cengel reported from Mongolia on a fellowship from the International Reporting Project (IRP). You can find her on twitter @kcengel

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