De­spite cold, peo­ple protest wors­en­ing smog

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ASSOCIATED PRESS in Ulaan­baatar, Mon­go­lia

Hun­dreds of Mon­go­lians braved frigid weather on Mon­day to stage a protest in the coun­try’s cap­i­tal de­mand­ing that the gov­ern­ment do more to ad­dress wors­en­ing air pol­lu­tion that they fear is sick­en­ing their chil­dren and short­en­ing their lives.

The demon­stra­tors gath­ered in a pub­lic square in front of gov­ern­ment of­fices, hold­ing ban­ners with slo­gans such as “Let’s give fresh air to our fu­ture chil­dren”, “Smog is silent killer” and “We can’t breathe”.

The air tem­per­a­ture hov­ered around -20 C.

Ac­cord­ing to UNICEF, the United Na­tions’ chil­dren’s agency, air pol­lu­tion is linked to the three dis­eases that have re­sulted in the most “lost life-years” in Mon­go­lia.

The agency said pneu­mo­nia and other re­s­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions were among the lead­ing causes of death among Mon­go­lian chil­dren un­der the age of 5. It said that the lungs of chil­dren liv­ing in highly pol­luted districts do not func­tion as well as those liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas, with real risks of them suffering chronic re­s­pi­ra­tory dis­eases when they’re older.

The protesters de­manded that the gov­ern­ment in­crease the num­ber of beds in hos­pi­tals that have been over­crowded with sick chil­dren and de­velop a plan to re­duce air pol­lu­tion by 80 per­cent by 2018. They also urged the gov­ern­ment to in­stall air fil­ters in kinder­gartens in the cap­i­tal.

Ulaan­baatar is one of the world’s cold­est cap­i­tals, with tem­per­a­tures some­times fall­ing to -40 C in Jan­uary. More than half of the city’s 1.3 mil­lion res­i­dents have to rely on burn­ing raw coal, plas­tic, rub­ber tires and other ma­te­ri­als to stay warm and cook meals in their homes. Such ar­eas, where res­i­dents live in tra­di­tional round tents that do not have cen­tral­ized heat­ing, have been shrouded in choking smog in re­cent days.

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