The One City Of Mongolia


Mongolia is very different from the US, most of its business is done in one city and they use a particularly unique renewable resource.

Most of Mongolia is made up of dispersed rural settlements. The economic base of this country is one city, Ulaanbaatar, or UB. This one city expresses primate city rule, in that the whole city contains about half of the population in Mongolia. (1) Most public services in Mongolia are small and dispersed throughout the country. Most information I could find about the public services are articles about how it desperately needs to be improved. (2)

Ulaanbaatar’s central business district is the hub of wealth and commerce for the country. The central business district holds the head of businesses in this city that make up two-thirds of the gross domestic product in Mongolia. (3) This city uses a multiple nuclei model, with different centers around education, business, and industry. UB experienced rapid urbanization in the past 50 years since it became a democracy, and no longer a Soviet satellite state. (4) As for the rest of the country, however, the vast majority stays very rural.


Air pollution is one of the biggest problems for those who live in Ulaanbaatar and surrounding areas. Coal power plants are close to the city. Since many of those who live in the suburbs of UB do not live in buildings but yurts, they are not connected to the heating grid of the city, therefore most burn coal in stoves. The coal smoke shrouds the city and causes health problems for many. (4) Outside of the city, however, nomadic populations use animate power, camels, sheep, cattle and horses. Nomadic families use these animals for transportation as well as to provide dung. Dung is a popular renewable resource for these people who are usually too poor or interested in buying coal. It is used for burning in yurt stoves for heat. Mongolian nomads also use their animals for other resources, food, hide for making a yurt home and wool used to make clothing. (5) Ulaanbaatar uses coal for power and heat, which is a nonrenewable resource. However, the nomads of the rest of the region survive on the sustainability of their animal resources.

According to the LA Times, the United States is making efforts to combat the air pollution problem in Ulaanbaatar. An air quality program supported by the US embassy in UB was welcomed by the Mongolian government, unlike programs offered to China. Ulaanbaatar air quality is one of the worst in the world, especially in the winter. The air pollution can sometimes reach 12 times the World Health Organization’s recommended limit. (4)

  1. Wikitravel Writers. (13 August 2017) Ulaanbatar. Retrieved from
  2. Worldbank Staff. (7 June 2015) Ulaanbaatar Services Improvement. Retrieved from
  3. Fan, Peilei; Chen, Jiquan; John, Ranjeet. (1 January 2017).Urbanization and environmental change during the economic transition on the Mongolian Plateau: Hohhot and Ulaanbaatar”. Environmental Research.
  4. Edwards, Terrance. (15 May 2015) World’s coldest city, choking on smoke. Retrieved from

HOTN Staff. (14 November 2014) Mongol nomads and their animals. Retrieved from

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