BLOG: Housing policy would save lives in Mongolia by Mikko Perkiö

The world’s coldest capital Ulaanbaatar (1,4 Million people) in Mongolia, suffers wide wellbeing losses due to air pollution. The city’s outskirts are growing with internal migrants, often herders, who have lost a large share of their animals and life-stock because of tough winters.

Ger and cowApartment building


Contrasting realities of housing in Ulaanbaatar. Pictures: Mikko Perkiö


The downtown of Ulaanbaatar is surrounded by ger districts, where a newcomer may occupy a small portion of land where to settle family’s home. Large part of the city’s 200.000 outskirt dwellings are gers, which are mobile and light constructions. These can not be connected to the heating grid of the world’s coldest capital.

The air pollution causes health problems. The heating of a ger is based the stove in the middle of the ger. During cold months and cool nights, the latter met throughout the year, the stove burns coal or wood (even tyres and trash), which produces smoke and small particles in the air.

Air pollution in the Ulaanbaatar ger-districts crosses several time the alarm rate of Peking. One of the most alarming health danger includes fetal abnormalities and miscarriages. Amount of those have increased substantially due to air pollution.

Fortunately, there is a simple and affordable solution available: housing policy. The state of Mongolia and the city of Ulaanbaatar just have to replace ger dwellings and wooden houses by apartment buildings. Connection to heating grid and piped water would mean giant health improvements for the city’s people. A flying start would find new tenants to the city’s 20.000 empty apartments.

If needed and requested cold latitude countries like Finland and wellbeing research oriented universities such as Tampere-3 would be ideal partners in transforming life of Mongolia‘s people.


The insights on Ulaanbaatar were gained through the participation in an evaluation project on Mongolian Red Cross Society’s Community Based Health and First Aid Programme. The consultancy was carried out as a training project by the University of Tampere, Global Health and Development, and it was funded by Finland’s Red Cross.

Link: UNICEF video; Ulaanbaatar (UB) Mongolia: Air Pollution & Human Health Impacts: