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Coldest capital, colder homes

By B.KHASH-ERDENE

Fall came at the drop of the hat this year. In a matter of just a few days, temperatures dropped throughout the country from above 20 degrees Celsius to below 10 degrees Celsius in the first half of this month, stirring panic among crop farmers and herders.
But the sudden cold doesn’t just affect the provinces. Many apartments in Ulaanbaatar still haven’t had their heating turned on, a process which started on September 15.
Apartment buildings in Sukhbaatar, Khan-Uul, and Bayanzurkh districts seem to be the most affected by the delayed heating.
Some residents claim that they have to wear their winter coats at home or set up electric heaters to keep warm. They’ve said that they are trying everything to push khoroos, district administrative units, to give them heating. Families with young children and babies expressed that there are health concerns with the suddenly chilly environment.
As it happens, my apartment, in Sukhbaatar District, hasn’t received heating either. Bills have to be paid on time or khoroos just shut everything down until residents pay.
The official explanation from the Ulaanbaatar Heating Network is that apartment cooperatives, which are in charge of the maintenance of residential areas, owe them money and the heating issue isn’t their responsibility.
“We have heard rumors about many problems related to apartment cooperatives. They are responsible for completing repair projects for pipelines before heating is supplied from our network. Around 50 apartment residents have complained that their homes haven’t been given heating. But we are not accountable for those issues. Apartment cooperatives didn’t fulfill their duties and owe an excessive amount of money to our network. That is why the heating has not been supplied to those apartments,” said Director of the Ulaanbaatar Heating Network R.Khaidav.
Though residents of these unheated apartments claim to have issued complaints to their khoroos and apartment cooperatives, the issue still hasn’t been resolved.
A plumber knocked on the door two days ago and asked to check the heating in my home. He didn’t say how many buildings have been affected, or what the authorities plan to do about it, he just checked the radiators for heat and left with a vague statement about “checking other apartments in the area”.
When I try to call the hotline for apartment cooperatives, their lines always seem to be busy. When, at last, I managed to get a call through, they didn’t have any explanation. The operator just said, “We’ll check,” and hung up. I called again and demanded an explanation, but the result was the same.
Living standards in Ulaanbaatar aren’t exactly smooth sailing. Ger districts emit hazardous levels of smoke that are responsible for one in four deaths in the city, they have no access to running water, sanitation, or access to the heating network. The alternative, apartments, experience regular power outages and water and heating gets cut for weeks due to pipe repairs or some other issue, every now and again. Sometimes it feels like the city is held together with duct tape, constantly on the verge of breaking.
As service providers, city and khoroo administrators have a duty to their customers, their khoroo residents. When residents fail to pay bills or taxes, our services are cut off, but when city administrators fail to fulfill their duties without sufficient reason, residents bear the burden.
In the end, nobody is held accountable for failures on the part of state organizations. Everyone just points their finger at some other organization or recites the usual financial issues and sits on their big, fat, comfortable chairs, looking sheepish. They have to realize that there is no excuse for failure to do their jobs.
The Ulaanbaatar City Council met yesterday and decided to charge residents operating bars, pubs, restaurants, resorts, and hotels a one percent Capital City Tax. Authorities are quick to set up taxes and fees, but lousy at resolving issues that affect the comfort and living conditions of residents.
Some have said that Mayor E.Bat-Uul is the only mayor to have done something to improve Ulaanbaatar, but if they compare the money he has spent during his time in office against the spending of his predecessors, they might not be so keen on him. Since taking office in 2012, E.Bat-Uul has spent nearly 1.9 trillion MNT. That’s nearly four times his predecessor G.Munkhbayar’s budget of 543 billion MNT spent from 2009 to 2012.
The cold isn’t as bad as it could be in Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital in the world, but if temperatures take another dip, things will turn really ugly. All we can do, it seems, is to hope that the voices of the public reach the right sets of ears before then.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=16380

Posted by on Sep 29 2015. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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