The emergency room of the National Trauma and Orthopedic Research Center (NTORC) is filled with angry and nervous people. There is a woman in her late 40s among the patients, who injured her elbow after slipping on ice. She said, “Elderly people have to be very careful during winter time. I slipped on the road while I was going to a shop.”
Luckily, she wasn’t injured too badly. Many people keep coming to the NTORC because of sidewalks made of stone, which become extremely slippery during winter.
According to an NTORC staff member, around 250 to 300 people with broken limbs came to the center in November. The number of people who have been injured in falls due to snow and ice is increasing, the worker says.
A study conducted by the World Health Organization said that 37.3 million people are given first aid due to accidental injuries each year. Eighty percent of them live in developing countries like Mongolia or underdeveloped countries. Unintentional injuries are the fifth leading cause of death. Traffic collisions are the leading cause of death among unintentional injuries.
Mostly people aged between 45 and 64 come to NTORC after injuring themselves on ice.
Ice related incidents and injuries are in some ways similar to air pollution as they are only discussed in winter. The city administration often clears snow and deices roads but they still can’t provide safety. There is a city decree mandates organizations to clear ice within 50 meters of their surrounding, but it is largely ignored.
Sukhbaatar Devshil public housing and utilities unit asked organization to clear ice from their surrounding area. “It’s your job to clean the outside area. Our organization pays you to do this,” is the most common reply they get.
Head of the renovations department of Sukhbaatar Devshil D.Altantsetseg said, “We don’t have the right to force people to clear snow and ice. But we have to ask them to clean for people’s safety. There are very few organizations that clean its surrounding. We have 50 workers and we have so much work to do. Each person cleans six to seven square meters of area every day. It snows again after the cleaning finishes.”
ASA Circus surroundings are the most heavily iced area and is the most difficult area to clean. Stone sidewalks are the most risky. Does Ulaanbaatar really need to have polished stone roads? Stone walkways are very slippery and extremely hard.
The underpass in Bagshiin Deed bus stop is one of the most crowed areas in the city. The problem is that the underpass has stone stairs and floor.
Walkways made of stone are good looking and easy to clean in summer. But they are not suitable for a country like Mongolia because of the extremely cold winter and heavy snow.
One of the companies that make stone tiles, Chuluun Khiits commented, “Sidewalks, playgrounds and outside areas can’t be made of stone or slippery material. It is very risky. Stones can crack easily. We use stone for indoor floor.”
Many countries in the world use marble and flagstone. But there are standards for using these. In Mongolia, everyone uses those fancy stones to make walkways. A woman who used to live in Germany said, “I was really shocked after coming to Mongolia because most sidewalks are made of marble.
Mongolia’s winter is very snowy and slippery. Sidewalks are usually made of asperity plate. In addition, people use machines to clean snow in German. In Mongolia, I saw people cleaning snow.”
B.Munkhjargal: There is no standard against stone sidewalks
Specialist at Sukhbaatar Devshil B.Munkhjargal gave an interview about stone pedestrian ways in Mongolia and the dangers they bring in winter.
Every organization has to clean their surrounding during winter. How do you monitor this?
There are 20 khoroos in Sukhbaatar District. There is an inspector in charge of maintenance in every khoroo. The inspector’s job is to check the surroundings of organizations. We sent demands for safety. Organizations have to send a photo of the safety procedures they carried out.
Are they pretending to carry out your demands?
Seventy to 80 percent of organizations carried out our safety demands. Inspectors note down organizations that didn’t comply. We can’t fine organizations. Governors of khoroo or inspectors of the General Authority for Specialized Inspection can fine them.
Where do people have to go if they slip on the ice on a sidewalks or public property? Can people complain to the organization, which is responsible for ensuring safety in the area?
In Mongolia, there is no standard against polished stone sidewalks. So we can’t blame that organization for having stone walkways.
Ulaanbaatar residents commented on how they feel about polished stone walkways.
Bayangol District resident Ya.Davaadorj: The city center improved compared to last year. But ger district streets are still dangerous and hard to walk in during winter. People can break their arms and legs when they go out of their homes. City administrations don’t clean or deice these areas. Some families dump ashes on ice to make streets less slippery.
Bayangol District resident Ts.Agvaan: Maintainance workers cleaning well but streets become slippery again. It is very hard to walk along apartments and ger districts. Some bus stations are very slippery. People get hurt trying to catch a bus. We can’t change a natural phenomenon like snow but we can clear it better.
Sukhbaatar District resident Ts.Tserenchimeg: I usually walk through the city center. I slip on the ice and snow a lot. I also slip on sidewalks made of stone when snow is stuck on my shoes. I don’t know what to do.
Songinokhairkhan District resident B.Altangerel: Most sidewalks and roads are slippery. Young people don’t have a problem with that, I think. But it’s risky for elderly people.
Bayanzurkh District resident Ts.Battsetseg: The Narantuul market area is very slippery. I think Mongolia has to use machines to clean snow as other countries do. It is hard to see people cleaning snow with shovels. They spend long hours cleaning snow but machine do it within few minutes. Mongolia must change this situation.