Urban Air Pollution Analysis for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

An updated study report is now published as a journal article

Particulate Pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Journal article in Air Quality, Atmosphere, & Health (2013) Download


This study "Urban Air Pollution Analysis for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia" was conducted in 2007 to discuss possible long-term strategies for reducing air pollution and related problems in the city. Given the exponentially changing demographics, industrialization, and motorization, the air pollution problems are escalating in the city and there is an immediate need to address this issue in an integrated manner. These trends have spurred an increase in the demand for energy (primarily met by coal combustion) in several sectors including transport, construction, heating, industrial production, and have resulted in challenges related to the secondary effects of growth such as pollution from transport, waste disposal, and natural resource mining among others.

Ulaanbaatar - Traffic Map - Google Ulaanbaatar Vehicle Statistics
left: Google map of Ulaanbaatar center with growing traffic
right: total vehicule population statistics, as of 2006

What are the main air pollution sources in Ulaanbaatar?
A summary of air pollution sources is presented here as a series of photos taken in May, 2007 as part of this study. The main sources of air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, in no particulate order, include - Gers, Improved stoves, coal and briquettes, household heating systems, industrial boilers, power plants, brick kiln operations, transport - public and private, dust emissions - construction, road resuspension (on paved and unpaved roads), fly ash resuspension, and garbage burning.

An unrestricted increase in air pollution, poses a significant challenge for rapidly growing city like Ulaanbaatar. The Figure below presents the results of an emissions inventory exercise based on the data collected from a number of local administrative bodies and air pollution dispersion modeling for the base year of 2006 (averaging ~200 micro-gm/m3 of PM10). The air pollution in the city of Ulaanbaatar is particularly severe in the Winter months, due to the natural constraints in the layout of the city, surrounded by mountains, and the meteorological conditions with low temperatures and low mixing heights for most part of the year, which limits the dispersion of pollutants and enhancing their ambient concentrations.

For the particulate pollution, a primary indicator of the health impacts of air pollution, the largest emitters are the power plants, domestic stoves (in the Ger areas), and industrial boilers. The transport (with ~82,000 vehicles including the public transport in 2006) is the fastest growing sector and contributing not only to the air pollution problems, but also traffic congestion and management. The annual health impacts based on the modeled average PM10 concentrations are estimated at ~7,000 premature deaths and ~US$ 290 million in incurred costs for the city in 2006.

Pollution Sources UB

A scenario analysis of air pollution emissions in Ulaanbaatar for the years 2010 and 2020 indicate that unless the government makes a concerted effort to address the issue at multiple levels, air pollution and its corresponding health impacts in Mongolia will be significant. While there is no single solution to reduce emissions, a combination of measures ranging from public education and awareness to strengthening of monitoring and enforcement, to improving technology is necessary in order to successfully address the increasing levels of air pollution.

What can the city administration do to control air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia?
Long term measures such as large scale district heating, building public transportation infrastructure (paving roads) require action at the institutional level, large capital investments and have a long gestation period. On the other hand short term actions such as installing solar panels, introducing efficient stoves, education and awareness on proper ventilation of.kitchens are less capital intensive and while they require mobilization at the level of the user, are relatively easier to implement. Hence a successful strategy to address air pollution should include a combination of short term and long term solutions. Click here for an overview of the series of short-term and long-term air pollution control options for Ulaanbaatar.

The final report (June, 2007) (Executive Summary - send email to receive full report) of the study covers the following;

Update: May, 2011, Shape files for main roads, rail line, point sources, points of interest, and rivers, are available upon request.

Other references and links

Some articles in press covering air pollution in Ulaanbaatar



Energy Policy Journal - Re-fueling Road Transport in India

An article in Energy Policy "Re-fueling Road Transport for Better Air Quality in India"

download HERE


Our Indian coal-fired power plant study discussed in the Rajya Sabha.
An interview in the New York Times.
An interview in the BBC News.