Winter in Mongolia can be one of the harshest and hardest seasons to get through. It’s a country where the climate can be of two extremes during the summer and winter. During the summer, in southern Mongolia, it can reach up to 40* Celsius and during the winter it can drop to -50* celsius in some regions of Mongolia.
For nomads, it’s especially challenging. There are instances of blizzards known as “zud” that kill millions of livestock. Getting help and aid from the government can be a challenge since the infrastructure is still lacking in most of the Mongolian countryside, hence some roads remain unplowed, unsalted, and are incredibly dangerous to drive in. However, nomads don’t have to deal with the horrendous air pollution of Ulaanbaatar.
For people who live in the capital, it can be a cold and smoggy time of the year. Each year the air pollution gets worse due to the influx of former nomads who decide to move into the capital for better future prospects. In some poorer areas of Ulaanbaatar, you can barely see where you’re going. Due to the air pollution, children who grow up in these neighborhoods develop ailments that pose health problems in the lungs and throat.
Why is Air Pollution SO BAD in Ulaanbaatar?
Most of the poorer neighborhoods are situated in the northwestern part of Ulaanbaatar. To stay warm during the cold winter, people burn coal, wood, and sometimes even rubber, which leads to toxic fumes. Ulaanbaatar being surrounded by mountains and hills, the toxic air takes much longer to dissipate; all that harmful chemicals just sit there. It’s somewhat similar to Mexico City’s air pollution.
The simple solution would be to either use clean coal that doesn’t produce toxins, provide an electric furnace to every family living in the suburbs, or provide modern housing to the nomads who moved to the city. Though it sounds simple to fix, bureaucracy, politics, economics, etc play a major role in the long delay in resolving this issue.
What About the Rest of Mongolia?
On the bright side, the rest of Mongolia is beautifully covered in snow and is sunny throughout most of the season. You can look into the horizon and see nothing but the vast landscape covered in white. Ice festivals and celebrations are held in the northern province of Mongolia and it’s a beautiful time of the year, as long as you don’t mind the cold and stay warm. You can check out the Mongolian fur boots people wear to stay warm.