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Mongolia's growing shantytowns: the cold and toxic ger districts

David Lawrence's picture

 

Children breathe thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves in Ulaanbaatar's ger districts, which are home to 60 percent of the city's population.
There’s no capital city anywhere in the world with a housing problem like Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Imagine a city of one million people. Then imagine 60 percent of them living in settlements without water, sanitation or basic infrastructure, often in traditional Mongolian felt tents, known as gers. Then imagine these people relying on wood- or coal-burning stoves for cooking and heating, with fuel costs eating up 40 percent of their income. Then imagine the discomfort of having to get up in the middle of the night when it’s -35 degrees Celsius to go to the bathroom – outdoors.

Worst of all, imagine you and your children breathing the thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, this is not imagination, this is the real situation for over a half million people living in the ger districts of the capital. Not a pretty picture.

After the Sichuan earthquake: Where will people live?

Mara Warwick's picture

Approaching the mountains from the Chengdu plain along the main road to Beichuan County, red banners with large white characters expressing support for the earthquake victims and thanks to the rescuers, are strung across the road, as if creating an arbor for all to pass through.  Driving up this road doesn’t feel safe, even now, six weeks after the quak