Mon­go­lians protest wors­en­ing smog, de­spite frigid weather

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Hun­dreds of Mon­go­lians braved frigid weather yes­ter­day 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.”

“We are des­per­ate and we are or­ga­niz­ing this demon­stra­tion to make au­thor­i­ties feel our frus­tra­tion and anger,” said Purevkhuu Tseren­dorj, one of the protest’s or­ga­niz­ers and a mother of two. The air tem­per­a­ture hov­ered around mi­nus 20 de­grees Cel­sius (mi­nus 4 Fahren­heit). 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 in Fe­bru­ary that 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 of Ulaan­baatar, the cap­i­tal, 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’s slum ar­eas, which are worst-hit by the pol­lu­tion. Ulaan­baatar is one of the world’s cold­est cap­i­tals, with tem­per­a­tures some­times fall­ing to -40 C (-40 F) in Jan­uary, the cold­est month of the year.

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. Re­spond­ing to the pro­test­ers’ calls, Mon­go­lian Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment and Tourism Oyunkhorol Du­lam­suren said that be­tween 2011 and 2015, the gov­ern­ment spent more than $37 mil­lion while in­ter­na­tional donors spent $47 mil­lion on mea­sures aimed at curb­ing air pol­lu­tion.—AP

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