- Concentration of major air pollutants rise despite anti pollution measures
- Mongolia started to calculate its air quality index based on the human health impact
As of October, air pollutants, namely sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and PM10 have increased significantly compared to the previous year, according to Agaar.mn. Officials believe that toxic pollutants in the air rose mainly due to the dryness, wind speed, and lack of snowfall in Ulaanbaatar. “Sulfur dioxide is present in motor vehicle emissions, as the result of fuel combustion. In the past, motor vehicle exhaust was important, but not the main source of accumulation sulfur dioxide in the air. The reason why its concentrations in the air became relatively higher may be weather conditions. For example, Ulaanbaatar was snowy a year ago, unlike today’s dry weather. It might be the key factor for air quality to reduce,” said a specialist at the National Agency for Meteorology and Environment Monitoring (NAMEM). Sulfur dioxide affects human health when inhaled. Those most at risk of developing problems if they are exposed to sulfur dioxide are people with asthma or similar conditions. In May 2019, burning raw coal in Ulaanbaatar was forbidden. Accordingly, the government coordinated the manufacture and supply of enhanced coal briquettes, which is assumed to reduce air pollution in Ulaanbaatar by 4050 percent. The fuel replacement was followed by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s decision in October 2018 to change how the air quality index (AQI) is calculated. Instead of the previously used one hour average of air pollution being reported, a threehour moving average is used to calculate AQI. A spokesperson told, “The air quality index aims to provide people with air quality news as fast as possible. Most countries’ air quality index measures include the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and WHO's air pollution indicators. In 2018, Mongolia started to calculate its air quality index considering the impact on human health”.
However, some analysts are against this change. Robert Ritz, Data Scientist and Director of LETU Mongolia, criticized the rule change saying that it smoothes out peaks and troughs, and can easily make it appear that air pollution is reducing. According to a recent report released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Mongolia’s economic costs associated with air pollution were estimated at USD 645 million or MNT 1.6 trillion annually.