On January 9, Mayor of Ulaanbaatar S.Batbold issued three decrees designed to combat air pollution. The decree titled “Restriction Action” has been getting the most attention, as its purpose is to limit rural to urban migration.

Mayor S.Batbold told the media, “Today, the Mayor’s Office has issued three decrees designed to decrease air pollution. A working group tasked with lowering air pollution has been working since June 2016. The decrees are based on studies and research that was conducted during both warm and cold weather conditions. The decrees will be introduced tomorrow, at the National Security Council meeting.”

The Restriction Action decree states that rural residents, excluding those who require long-term medical care, those who already own an apartment, and those who have a mortgage loan, will be restricted from taking up residence in Ulaanbaatar. This restriction will be in place until January 1, 2018. The Mayor explained, “Even though freedom of movement is a constitutional right afforded to every citizen, the threat of air pollution in the capital has reached a point where it could potentially affect national security. The right to health and safety of Ulaanbaatar residents is being violated, therefore, the Mayor’s Office has decided to issue the decree within the rights afforded to it, based on multiple studies and consultation from numerous agencies, in order to meet the demands of our residents.”

The second decree issued by the Mayor’s Office calls for dividing the city into zones. The establishment of any new settlements outside of residential zones will be prohibited, with the area outside of residential zones has being declared “eco areas”.

The final decree outlines the establishment of four different air pollution zones in the city. Zone 1 includes apartments, houses, and residential complexes. The decree states that coal burning will be prohibited in this zone. The Zones 2, 3, and 4 have been identified as areas which will use electrical heating and areas which will use improved fuel.

The Mayor also touched on the subject of pollution from vehicle emissions. “We will be improving vehicle diagnostics and restrict vehicles that are creating air pollution, if necessary,” the Mayor stated.


  1. While this is probably needed as a short term ’emergency measure’, to tackle the real issue a much more long term plan is needed. This needs to include incorporating the ger districts into the public service system – electricity grid, water, sewage and heating – and providing the right tools for people living in the ger districts to turn their homes into more formal ones. A huge investment programme modernizing UB is needed and the international financial institutions support greatly needed. One more aspect of what is needed is to have progressive pricing on public services. A tax on the rich providing financing to expand the services to the poor. This is simple and has been proven a success in many places. It would work by having the tariff you pay dependent on your total consumption. So the more heating you use I total, the more you pay for per unit of consumption. And vice versa, the less you use, the less you pay per unit (and it could be free under a certain threshold for instance). As usual, a lot needed, but all doable with the right longer term thinking and strong political will.

  2. A Ger development plan was outlined in the UB city master plan. Expanding the city limits to include some of the more peripheral settlements would help with incorporated the ger districts by providing the gers partial connectivity to the grid or by providing more eco-friendly self-sustaining utilities such as solar power generators (people in the GOBI have these, why not in UB?). Additionally, one way to decrease pollution would be electric cars–I have not seen much mention of this concept as an alternative, but I think it would be an interesting pilot program.

  3. Samantha’s suggestion for use of solar power is fine, except it’s not storable so useless for heating overnight. My 4 Kw panels only give a few hundred Kwhours on dull days so still useless in daytime at plus 10C, let alone at minus 25C.
    The latest restriction on urban migration is pathetic and heartless. Where are the next victims of dzud going to look for somewhere to live except other urban areas with even less to offer than UB?
    The government is responsible for all of UB’s problems by failing to adequately support herding communities who want for no more than to live independly, even if that means living at subsistence level. Far better than the soulless poverty that awaits them in UB. If that doesn’t shorten their lives, the pollution certainly will!
    50% of UB’s population are ex herders from past dzud disasters. Support poorer herders with a viable way of life, better dzud protection, and migrations to UB will significantly fall.


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