Death, Taxes, and Urbanization

Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, the capital of one of the most nomadic Asian nations, has also become one of the world’s most densely populated cities today. It has struggled to cope with the inevitable urbanization that the rest of our planet is being faced with, and in response to the nearly seven month long winters, poor schooling, and lack of opportunity in the rural areas of Mongolia, many Mongolians have begun to relocate to Ulaanbaatar. This rapid movement has caused serious infrastructure issues in the capitol as well as serious pollution, and poverty issues throughout the city.

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The overpopulation that came with urbanization has resulted in the development of what is known as “Ger” areas; small huts and yurts that are tightly surrounding the industrial and developed part of the city. Ger areas epitomize the struggle that Mongolia is dealing with. Ger households are roughly 45% below the poverty line and have very little access to resources relative to the rest of the city. Ger areas account for nearly 60% of Ulaanbaatar population, and Ulaanbaatar as a whole accounts for roughly 40% of the national population.

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When it was designed, Ulaanbaatar was only designed to hold 500,000 people. Today it holds 40% of the nations 3.1 million. When the population density gets high there are bound to be problems that spark not only including overpopulation. Road and traffic issues have become a larger issue since the mass migration to the cities. Pollution is another issue that has emerged as one of the largest threats to the city as it surpassed Beijing in pollution levels in late 2016.

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Coal plants are the main reason for pollution levels in Ulaanbaatar and it has resulted in Ulaanbaatar becoming one of the leading producers of black smog. In 2016, when they surpassed Beijing they exceeded the safety level for pollution by a factor of 80. The smog and dangerous pollution levels have resulted in a spike in respiratory issues throughout the cities, and in Ger area, where healthcare is almost nonexistent and the hygiene is minimal due to lack of resources, health problems are far more serious to the people especially living in such close quarters to others.

The efforts to combat the issues that have risen through drastic urbanization have included land laws, banning migration to certain areas, and forcing mayors and other political leaders to form policy, but the issue still remains. Urbanization has been on the rise for decades and is only becoming more popular. The only way Mongolia can deal with such rapid urbanization is to embrace the pull factors to the city and fight against the issues in which they have control over such as pollution, lack of resources, and the infrastructure.

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