Thousands of Mongolians on Saturday stood in frigid weather for the second time this winter to protest the government response to smog that routinely blankets their capital.
An estimated 7,000 people, many of them wearing air masks and gas masks underneath thick winter hats, braved temperatures that fell below minus-20?C. Standing in the city’s central Sukhbataar Square, they held black balloons and protest signs. One banner read: “Wake up and smell the smog.”
Ulan Bator is one of the world’s coldest capitals, and more than half of the city’s 1.3 million residents rely on burning raw coal, plastic, rubber tires and other materials to stay warm and cook meals in their homes.
In impoverished neighborhoods that ring the city, known as ger districts, many herders and others live in traditional round tents without heating, leaving them to burn polluting fuels.
UNICEF said last year that Ulan Bator was one of the 10 most polluted cities in the world.
It found that the lungs of children living in the districts with the highest pollution did not function as well as those of children living in rural areas, putting them at risk of chronic respiratory diseases as they grow older.
Pollution readings in one ger district on Friday were at times nearly 30 times above the levels considered safe by the WHO. Icy winds that whipped through the square during Saturday’s protest cleared some of the previous day’s pollution.
Sanchir Jargalsaikhan, a political scientist in Ulan Bator, said climate change has intensified summer droughts and winter colds, making it harder to maintain livestock and forcing more herders into overcrowded ger districts.
“The policies our government is pursuing are pretty piecemeal, I would say,” Jargalsaikhan said.
“They’re not part of a development project or a comprehensive program,” he said.
Mongolian Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism Oyunkhorol Dulamsuren last month said that the government spent more than US$37 million and international donors US$47 million between 2011 and 2015 on measures to cut down air pollution.
However, many protesters on Saturday said that they did not have the means to do more on their own.
Dorjin Dolgor, a retiree, said she lives on an annual pension of 275,000 Mongolian togrog (US$112). She burns coal in the stove of her house to stay warm.
She called herself a “smogmaker” by necessity.
“To get heaters for my three-room house would cost me one year of my pension, and maybe not even be enough,” she said.
“That is the real price. And on top of that, we don’t know how my electrical bill would be afterward,” she said.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon. Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months. Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies. The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months. “The delays have affected journalists