The three most visible environmental issues in UB are:
- air pollution from domestic burning of coal, wood and dung for heating and
cooking, particularly in the informal Ger Areas. A recent study in the Dari-Ekh Khoroo of UB estimated air pollution levels to be 16 times accepted international levels.
- lack of adequate solid waste management;
- land degradation through an absence of urban planning, land management and infrastructure development:
-unplanned Ger Area sprawl has encroached on land subject to erosion;
- lack of protection of critical urban drainage courses increases erosion, pollutes downstream water courses, and helps spread disease from poor sanitation facilities and improperly handled solid waste;
-urban sprawl is reducing immediately available grazing land;
-rural deforestation contributes to the increasing severity of seasonal dust storms.
Perhaps less visible, but equally critical is the poor condition of residential sanitation facilities, again primarily in the Ger Areas.
I'm sorry, does that say 16 times accepted international levels of air pollution???
I suppose I should quit complaining about my headaches and just be happy to be alive! The dust storm thing is crazy too. Apparently dust storms in Mongolia carry pollution and dust all the way to Seattle, and have on occasion caused pollution levels to rise in South Korea. I was once caught in a dust storm in Choibalsan where I could not see my hand in front of my face. Here is a picture of me after a walk in the countryside that ended in a dust storm that you could see coming like a tornado (circa 2005) and a picture of a dust storm in Choibalsan (circa 2004).
Enough about dust, because I have no real beef with that at the moment, just pollution. Everyone around me is getting sick, and I have fallen victim too. I had a meeting last week with some Western doctors who work here in UB, who noted an acceptionally high amount of respiratory issues. So, what, you may ask is being done about the pollution? As far as I can see, not much. Unlucky for me, it'll only get worse as it gets colder and people burn all kinds of things to keep warm, and the government keeps burns unwashed coal in the power plants that surround me.
Since everyone I know is sick, or just was sick, or is on their way to being sick, I've received plenty of advice on herbal remedies. One such remedy is to drink the juice of the Sea Buckthorn berry. Apparently it has loads of vitamin C. I'm gonna head to the pharmacy and bypass all the crazy drugs I can buy over the counter here and get some Sea Buckthorn hopefully from Russia or Mongolia (I have this crazy fear of medicine from China!) I'll let you know how it pans out. Perhaps I should also purchase an air filtering mask!