Mongolia to cut emissions of persistent organic pollutants


Mongolia will implement a project on introducing environmentally-friendly technology and experience to mitigate open burning of waste in relation to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Unuudur spoke with the project manager, B.Delgerbayar, about the project details.

Four countries were involved in this project aside from Mongolia. How long will the project be carried out for?

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) are going to implement this project in Mongolia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines through 2020. The main objective of the project is to mitigate the volume of POPs, such as dioxins and furans, that are emitted when wastes are open burnt by 93 percent.

How much financing is required and what measures will be taken under the project?

The GEF is investing a total of 7.56 million USD for the project. Approximately 1.5 million USD will be spent in each country. The Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism and Mayor’s Office of Ulaanbaatar will implement the project in Mongolia. They will also implement subprojects on improving the Law on Waste Management to strengthen the skills of personnel of relevant organizations, introduce environmentally-friendly technology for decreasing open burning of waste, and increase the public’s knowledge on impacts of POPs caused by open burning.

What are the influences of POPs on human health and animals? What kind of diseases may result from POPs?

The main goal of the Stockholm Convention on POPs is to protect human health and the environment. POPs include 26 substances such as chlordane, dieldrin and polychlorinated biphenyls. POPs are widely distributed through the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water and, most notably, air. They accumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain. They are toxic to both humans and wildlife. They have negative impacts on endocrine, immunity, nerves, reproductive system, and may cause skin diseases, diabetes and cancer. POPs also affect fetus development and poison infants through breast milk.

How much is the volume of dioxins and furans in Mongolia compared to other countries?

Because Mongolia’s territory is big, and the country has a low population density and industry is not developed well, emission of dioxins and furans are relatively low compared to other countries. However, emission of dioxins and furans from centralized waste fields are high. The volume of dioxins and furans emitted from the Moringiin Davaa centralized waste field per year is 10 times higher than Cambodia’s.

What causes the emission of dioxins and furans?

Dioxins and furans aren’t only emitted when burning wastes. They are also emitted when burning wood and coal in a furnace, cremation, burning of carcasses, and when fire breaks out in forests. Around 50 percent of dioxins and furans emission in Mongolia is caused by open burning of wastes. The main reason is that a great amount of waste are openly burned in centralized waste fields and in illegal waste fields.

How many waste fields are there in Mongolia?

There are six centralized landfills in Ulaanbaatar, and 357 waste fields in provinces. However, studies show that there are around 2,445 unauthorized small waste fields throughout the country. Even though a general cleaning is conducted at unauthorized waste fields and around 70 percent of the waste is transported every spring and fall, people dump their wastes again. Around 1.8 million tons of wastes are generated at waste fields annually. This is an issue that needs to be tackled in Mongolia.

You said that subprojects will be carried out to decrease open burning of wastes. Can you tell us more about them?

We are planning to implement two projects. We will collect metal and plastic containers of oils and chemical substances from mining companies and industries to clean and make them safe. Afterwards, we will distribute metal containers for ash and plastic containers for other wastes to families in ger districts. If people separate hot ash from other wastes, it will create possibilities for not burning wastes openly. Ash waste can also be reused. The second subproject will clean metal and plastic containers of chemical substances at Tsagaan Davaa landfill, establish a decontamination facility and landfill for ash waste. This measure will be taken based on the Eco Park establishment initiated by the Mayor’s Office of Ulaanbaatar. You are also going to implement a program to train targeted groups. Yes, we are going to update teaching programs of general education schools and universities and include courses on POP risks, its impacts to human health and wildlife, prevention solutions, and possible methods for mitigating their pollution. We discussed a program for universities at a regional level and decided to make an integrated model.

Even though there aren’t any engineered landfills in Mongolia, there are landfills in Ulaanbaatar, but what about provinces?

In order to reach from one soum to another, we need to drive 30 to 50 km, so every soum has to have a centralized waste field. We need to establish a monitored landfill in these waste fields. Monitored means that it has fencing so that wastes are not spread during storms, and with possibilities for registering waste and burying them with proper technology. We do believe that this is the most reasonable and environmentally-friendly method. Dioxins and furans will not be emitted if waste is not thrown away in an open area.

How will you register waste?

In order to improve waste management, we need to know the norm and structures of wastes from provinces, soums and districts. Last year, the government approved the methodology for determining waste norm. Last year, the ministry organized a project for determining the waste norm of families in provinces and soums. Determining waste norms of an individual, household, or organization becomes a base for collecting service fees, planning waste management, and calculating expenditure. For instance, an Ulaanbaatar resident throws away 800 grams of waste in winter and 600 grams of waste in summer per day.