Pope Francis visiting one of the world’s most polluted capitals this week

Pope Francis visiting one of the world’s most polluted capitals this week

The contaminated air is a result of multiple factors, including the presence of communities surrounding the city known as the Ger District. In this area, impoverished families utilize illicit raw coal from the black market, alongside burning tires, plastic bottles, and other refuse within their traditional dwellings called yurts. These practices are used to combat the cold winters. Additionally, Ulaanbaatar is affected by the emissions from four substantial coal plants, further contributing to the pollution.

“Air pollution has become a child health crisis in Ulaanbaatar, putting every child and pregnancy at risk,” according to the UNICEF report.

Captured on January 16, 2022, an aerial photograph depicts the presence of smoke hanging over residences on a polluted day in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital. This image was credited to Byambasuren Byamba-Ochir/AFP via Getty Images.

According to the UN agency, the city’s smog has reached such hazardous levels that children residing in a severely polluted area of Ulaanbaatar exhibited 40% lower lung function compared to their rural counterparts. Research conducted at a Mongolian hospital revealed a significant link between seasonal air pollutants and a 3.6-fold increase in miscarriage rates within the capital. Responding to the adverse public health effects, the Mongolian government took action in 2019 by prohibiting the consumption of raw coal. Nevertheless, the city still contends with the ongoing repercussions of air pollution.

Mongolia’s distinctive profile also stems from its abundant mineral resources, encompassing uranium, copper, gold, and other rare earth reserves. Various foreign nations, including Japan, the United States, and China, have invested in mining operations within Mongolia. Pope Francis might address this concern, similar to his stance during his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier in the year, during which he gained attention for condemning exploitative mining practices by proclaiming, “Hands off Africa!”

Reportedly, Pope Francis intends to unveil an updated version of Laudato si’ on October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. This information was shared by Hungarian President Katalyn Novák, who had a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on August 25.

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