Ulaanbaatar residents continue to suffer from the alarmingly high level of air pollution. The impact goes beyond harmful and insidious health effects and has become a significant development challenge.
A lack of urban planning, particularly amid rapid migration to the city from rural areas, is defined as the core of the problem. Experts noted that unless strategic actions are urgently adopted, pollution and its associated costs will severely worsen especially since the city population is expected to surge to 1.9 million by 2025, and to 2.7 million by 2050.
In 2013, welfare costs from exposure to air pollution in Mongolia were equivalent to 6.9 percent of the country's annual gross domestic product.
To make anti-smog actions more effective, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) published its first edition of Observations and Suggestions series on the topic 'Winning the Fight Against Air Pollution in Ulaanbaatar' last December. By reviewing key factors causing air pollution in Ulaanbaatar and some successful experiences of other countries that can be adopted, the policy note presents recommendations that can crystallize the existing policy momentum into a long-term, institutionalized framework for sustainable solutions to reduce air pollution in the capital.
'While lessons from other countries are valuable for Mongolia, the high rate of rural-urban migration and extremely harsh winters create a unique challenge for the country and require a tailored approach. Solutions will demand concerted and sustained efforts by multiple stakeholders - the general public, civil society, the private sector, and development partners - led by strong government accountability for, and ownership of, pollution issues,' the report read.
'Short-term actions through to 2020 should prioritize reducing the major drivers of air pollution and mitigating health effects related to pollution. Longer-term measures through to 2030 should aim to improve air quality in Ulaanbaatar on a sustainable basis. Designing, planning, and budgeting for the short- and long-term policies is challenging, but success will result in a significant and sustained boost to Mongolia's productivity and lay the foundations for dynamic urban centers to drive future economic growth.'
ADB acknowledged the Mongolian government's previous and ongoing actions to effectively mitigate air pollution but stressed that more can be done if the following recommendations are carried out.
Short-term policy actions