Air pollution over UB. Photo courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wild_speedy/5520138414/in/photostream/

Mongolia: Air Pollution

As I mentioned in an earlier post—Mongolia: First Impressions—the smog in Ulaanbaatar (UB) was the first thing I noticed as my plane came in to land at Mongolia’s capital.

During Mongolia’s long and harsh winters, UB’s air quality plummets to become the second-polluted in the world. 60% of the pollution comes from households burning coal in small stoves. UB’s population of 1.4m—almost half of Mongolia’s total 3.0m population—has grown rapidly in recent years, driven by families migrating to the capital from rural areas. Most of these families live in gers, traditional nomadic felt tents. To keep warm during winter, they burn coal to stay warm, with the average family consuming 4.5 tonnes of coal during a single winter.

I was recently living in Mongolia, working with the microfinance crowdfunding organization Kiva. Kiva, through its local partner organisations XacBank and Credit Mongol, is helping to combat Mongolia’s smog problems by providing funding for items like energy efficient stoves, better insulation, and solar panels, via their green loan programs. A loan to replace old stoves and purchase a proper insulating blanket for a family’s ger can reduce a family’s coal consumption—and the amount of smoke produced—by 60%.

These programs provide more than an environmental benefit. Families can spend upwards of 40% of their household budget on coal during winter; a green loan to reduce a family’s coal consumption means more in the family’s pocket for food, education, or to help fund their business.

With one of Kiva's partners, XacBank, I toured a solar panel factory that XacBank's eco-banking department was considering partnering with.
With one of Kiva’s partners, XacBank, I toured a solar panel factory that XacBank’s eco-banking department was considering partnering with.

For more information, visit Kiva.org.

One thought on “Mongolia: Air Pollution”

  1. I think it’s awesome what you did, there. But yeah… the amount of pollution in that photo is scary. I’m used to the yellow and orange pollution levels in China and parts of Japan, but nothing that… gray. It’s no wonder you had to buy that mask!

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