Recent Results of World Bank Support for Air Pollution Reduction in Ulaanbaatar

January 11, 2011

January 11, 2011, Ulaanbaatar - In August 2007 the MOF requested WB support to mobilize its broad range of resources to raise awareness, coordinate among stakeholders, and help reduce air pollution in UB.

Donor awareness raising and resource mobilization

By June 2010, several donors (including MCC, ADB, EBRD, JICA, GTZ, and the French Government) had mobilized about $45 million as grants and soft credits to support the government’s efforts to reduce air pollution in Ulaanbaatar. Most of these programs were launched this winter and full scale implementation is expected next winter.

The WB also offers the Government and UB city an additional $12-15 million in soft credits to introduce clean stove technologies, prepare some medium term measures, build air pollution program management capacity and others.

With the WB soft credit, the Government will have mobilized about $59 million in donor resources, mainly for short term measures over the next few years.


The WB provided coordination support to the National Committee on coordination, management, and oversight of activities of government agencies with regard to the implementation of the Government policy on air pollution reduction (NCC). The NCC is chaired by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and Vice Chaired by the Vice Mayor of UB City. Coordination is necessary because government agencies share responsibility for the oversight, regulation, management and financing of the many pollution sources. Jointly with the Government of Mongolia and other development partners, the Bank has organized at least six donor coordination meetings and an international workshop on air pollution reduction. Embassies and International organizations that participated included: Embassies of France, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States and international organizations ADB, Asia Foundation, EBRD, GTZ, JICA, MCC/MCA, World Vision, UNDP/UNEP, WHO.

It took great deal of resources and time of different stakeholders, including the Government ministries, UB city and relevant agencies, external partners and academic institutions, to understand the nature and complexity of different causes of air pollution problem, establish scientific evidence of current air quality situation in UB and contribute to the development of the possible, effective options for air pollution mitigation and its impacts.

Joint activities with Asian Development Bank, GTZ, World Vision, JICA, National University of Mongolia, Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, MCC/MCA and others have lead to:

  • establishment of Stove Emissions and Efficiency Testing Laboratory currently financed by       the Asian Development Bank, established by the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy
  • training of stove producers and development of new stove models
  • ongoing design of stove replacement program
  • two pilot programs, each testing potential solutions, one by MCA (mainly ger insulation,   ger vestibules, high efficient homes as well as boiler replacement), and ADB (mainly looking at modifications of stoves and lighting behavior

Government awareness raising and development of solutions

The broader purpose of the Bank’s recent analytical work is to introduce an objective, analytical framework by which pollution reduction programs could be prioritized and their results evaluated. There has been so much debate about how to reduce air pollution, but few studies have tried to understand how effective the pollution abatement programs should be. By how much should pollution in ger areas be reduced to have a visible impact and real health impact in all of Ulaanbaatar?

The Bank’s research has been conducted jointly with Mongolian and international experts and policy makers. The Air Monitoring and Health Impact Baseline, AMHIB, is a name for a World Bank study to assess air pollution using best locally available data and to evaluate the health impacts associated with air pollution in UB. The Government of Korea and Netherlands provided substantial assistance to hire experts for this study. The core team comprises the National University of Mongolia, the Public Health Institute of Mongolia, and the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) and Steinar Larssen, consultant and formerly with NILU, Resources for the Future (RFF), a team lead by Alan Krupnick at the Resources for the Future (RFF), Bart Ostro from the California Environmental Protection Agency, Kristin Aunan from Center from the International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO) and the World Bank. The Steering Committee is chaired by Vice Minister of Nature, Environment and Tourism and includes National Agency for Meteorology Hydrology, Public Health Institute, and Environmental Monitoring, City of Ulaanbaatar Air Quality Department. JICA also provided peer review comments and additional data. GTZ also provided additional data.

Current research estimates suggest that:

Although pollutants such as SO2 also are higher than international standards, Particulate Matter (PM) is the largest and relatively most severe air pollution problem in Ulaanbaatar. In terms of PM, Ulaanbaatar is among the most polluted cities in the world.

AMHIB study results also show clear linkages between the high PM concentration values in UB, particularly in Ger areas, and the incidences of premature death (mortality) and illness (morbidity) in the population.

For the first time PM was measured systematically in the ger areas under this study. PM concentrations in the city center exceed Mongolian Air Quality Standards (AQS) by 3-6 times, while PM concentrations in ger areas exceed Mongolian AQS by 7-14 times.

Particulate Matter emissions (fine particles of dust that are inhaled and cause health damage) must be reduced by about 95% to meet Mongolian Air Quality Standards. The World Bank-led AMHIB Study will be disseminated in Spring 2011. An interim report with partial results was issued last year and translated into Mongolian.

It will take years to achieve Mongolian Air Quality Standards. Promising short term measures can have a visible impact. Medium and Long term measures need time and good quality preparation. It is estimated that an 80% reduction in emissions from ger area heating could reduce concentrations of fine particulates by about 40-46%. It is not just heating that is a major pollutant. Dust from unpaved roads, unpaved or unplanted land, the desert, garbage burning as well as power plant ash ponds also contribute significantly to air pollution.

Clean stove technologies have one of the highest cost effective potentials and can be implemented in the short term. But very little investment, especially when compared with support for other measures, has been made in stoves for many years. There is no one solution that can solve this problem. Reducing emissions requires the stove and the fuel to be properly matched. Recent stove research results are promising and are described below.

While clean technologies exist, producing attractive, good quality and affordable products is a challenge and that is why pilots are needed this winter to understand consumer preferences. Not everyone likes the same product so it is difficult to pick a winner and ask people to use it. Currently, capacity of domestic suppliers to rapidly produce new technology stoves is limited and a significant barrier to market development. Together with partners, the World Bank offers to develop jointly an emissions testing program for new stoves and later low pressure boilers in the market, work with producers to ensure good quality products, market test the products, design limited subsidy program that stimulates demand for cleaner stove technologies.

Research Publications

  1. Heating in Poor, Peri-Urban Ger Areas of Ulaanbaatar (October 2009)
  2. Air pollution in Ulaanbaatar - Initial Assessment of Current Situation and Effects of Abatement Measures, December 2009
  3. Air Monitoring and Health Impact Baseline Study (forthcoming 2011)
  4. Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project Concept (2007 and revised 2010 and submitted to Government and UB City)

Recent research on stoves

Since August 2010, the Stove Emissions and Efficiency Testing (SEET) Laboratory has tested about 10 different fuel-stove combinations with very positive results. Since SEET started testing significant progress has been made in understanding (i) how to reduce emissions from traditional stoves; and (ii) that a very significant reduction in ambient air pollution is possibly by changing traditional stoves with a better model and slightly changing the way fires are started.

Stoves should be started as few times as possible; they should continue to burn at all times at low heating levels to keep the room warm. This is a departure from current practices whereby people have a fierce fire and then let it die, and restart later. This requires stoves to be air tight and have a heat control mechanism. The local stove producers should be convinced to make slightly modified stoves to accommodate these fuel and emissions saving changes.

The way stoves are lit and refueled is very important. A modification of current practices can reduce stove emissions significantly, but this requires consumers to change their behavior. The user’s immediate benefit is much faster lighting and a saving of fuel.

Different stove models exist that are much cleaner than traditional stoves; they all burn much longer than traditional stoves on a single load of fuel (6-10 hours compared with 2-4 hours)

  • Prototypes of clean stoves developed in UB in 2010 are available in small quantities. They are not commercialized yet, and some assistance for producers is needed to improve production methods and quality;
  • Existing stoves can be modified for a dramatic improvement if combined with a change in the lighting and refueling method;

The above results and in fact the best results are all obtained with Nalaikh raw coal. The advantage of Nalaikh coal is that a fire starts rather quickly and easily compared to the other coals in Mongolia.
All the low emissions stoves burn a charge of coal continuously rather than all at once. The gradual burn dramatically lowers emissions, extends the burn time and increases the thermal efficiency. It is possible that raw Nalaikh briquettes will reduce emissions further because the stoves can be optimized to suit the fuel. Thus far no other fuels have been submitted to SEET for testing.

Socially acceptable, technically feasible emission reduction targets should be set to give a clear direction for action plans. Targets will be determined by technical options and the ability and willingness to pay for pollution reduction by civil society. The costs of air pollution are paid from the pocketbook, the budget and future health costs through higher incidences of pollution related illnesses.

What and how to pay for air pollution mitigation is a choice to be made by civil society and its representatives. Due to the complex nature of air pollution, an open discussion of options and their estimated impacts based on an analytical framework using best available data is recommended. Cost effectiveness or cost-benefit analysis can be used for each policy option. These estimates together with other factors that are considered important to civil society can be considered in choosing clean air strategies. Setting targets that have been openly discussed helps build widespread support for pollution abatement activities that involve asking people to change behaviors. Many in civil society, especially the poorest, will be asked to change their behavior in some way to improve air quality. They should become active allies in the reduction of air pollution in UB. This approach provides policy makers with realistic options for developing air quality management strategies that are suited to the current socio-economic situation in Mongolia. 

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