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Ulaanbataar

Road to prosperity: five ways Mongolia can improve the quality of its infrastructure spending

Zahid Hasnain's picture
Also available in: Mongolian

Financed by the mining boom, government spending on new infrastructure in Mongolia has increased 35-fold in the past 10 years. But you would not know this from driving the pot holed streets of Ulaanbaatar or inhaling the smog filled air of the city, particularly in the ger areas.

A new World Bank report I co-authored examines why this increased spending is not resulting in equivalent benefits for the citizens of Mongolia in terms of better roads, efficient and clean heating, and improved water and sanitation services.

Deep winter in Mongolia often means extreme cold, smog

David Lawrence's picture

This morning, my kids stood waiting for the school bus, crying. The bus was late, and they had been outside for about three minutes. No wonder. The temperature outside was -39 degrees Celsius. I thought we had bundled them up enough; they had so many layers on that they looked like astronauts. But they were still freezing.

This winter is especially cold. It's in the 30 degrees below zero every day, and has dipped below -40°C.  In some parts of Mongolia, it has fallen below -50°C. There is frost on the windows of our office.

Mongolia reaches milestone in global assessment of threatened species

Tony Whitten's picture
Red deer from the Mongolia Red List for Mammals.

The Red Books and Red Lists, produced regularly by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, are fundamental tools in the monitoring of the conservation status of the world’s animals and plants. On publication, the news they generate is very significant but generally rather depressing. However, these global Red Lists have their limitations at national levels – when species are nationally very common but globally threatened – or when species are very rare and threatened, with no global conservation concern whatsoever.

Take the Red Deer in Mongolia for example. Globally this is formally of ‘Least Concern’ (pdf) – the lowest category – because it has an enormous range, is managed for hunting in many countries, and effectively protected in others. But in Mongolia, its status is the highest possible ‘Critically Endangered’ (pdf).

Photo blog: Bringing support to communities in rural Mongolia

Erdene-Ochir Badarch's picture

Editor’s note: Photo blogger Erdene-Ochir Badarch works on rural and environmental issues for the World Bank in Mongolia. Earlier this summer, he and a team of 17 people spent 160 hours traveling 2,300 kilometers through Mongolia’s forests, mountains and steppe to visit sites and people receiving support from the second Sustainable Livelihoods Project. The project is part of a three-phase 12-year program, which works to enhance secure and sustain livelihoods in communities throughout Mongolia by providing support in rural areas for improved health and education facilities, pasture management and access to financial services. Erdene took the pictures (seen below) at the Zavhan and Bayanhongor aimags (provinces). Read more about the Mongolian Sustainable Livelihoods Project II project here. (Hover your mouse over "Notes" for photo information.)


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Mongolia's growing shantytowns: the cold and toxic ger districts

David Lawrence's picture

 

Children breathe thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves in Ulaanbaatar's ger districts, which are home to 60 percent of the city's population.
There’s no capital city anywhere in the world with a housing problem like Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Imagine a city of one million people. Then imagine 60 percent of them living in settlements without water, sanitation or basic infrastructure, often in traditional Mongolian felt tents, known as gers. Then imagine these people relying on wood- or coal-burning stoves for cooking and heating, with fuel costs eating up 40 percent of their income. Then imagine the discomfort of having to get up in the middle of the night when it’s -35 degrees Celsius to go to the bathroom – outdoors.

Worst of all, imagine you and your children breathing the thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, this is not imagination, this is the real situation for over a half million people living in the ger districts of the capital. Not a pretty picture.

Mongolia's forests burning: are they good or are they bad?

Tony Whitten's picture

Last weekend a small group of us decided to drive the 8 hours or so to the Khonin Nuga (pronounced Honing Nuk) research station, northwest of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. We had a standing invitation to visit the site for years from Professor Michael Mühlenberg of Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany, and Professor R. Samiya of National University, Ulaanbaatar – who together run the station. The route took us through the town of Zuun Kharaa, the vodka-producing capital of Mongolia, and off towards the dark-green forested mountains of the western Khentii.  We saw Mongolia’s largest bird, the Black Vulture, and also the respected and graceful Demoiselle Cranes picking up grasshoppers among the wind-blown solid waste around the town. We were going to spend the night in the research station, discuss with Prof. Mühlenberg the possibility of using the site as a training center within the forest landscapes project we are preparing, and find time to explore the taiga forest and steppe by horse. And then we were going to do the bumpy ride home again.

Instead, we found ourselves facing a major forest fire. (Continue reading after the jump)

Mongolia: tough decisions about the world's oldest nature reserve

Tony Whitten's picture

Bogd Khan Uul Strictly Protected Area (SPA) (41,651 ha) is located on the edge of Mongolia's capital city, Ulaanbaatar, and dominates the views to the south. It is the oldest continuously protected area in Mongolia and possibly the world, being first established in 1778. Its establishment preceded by almost 100 years that of Yellowstone National Park in the United States. There is evidence the area held informal protective status as early as the 12th century. Bogd Khan Uul holds significant historical and cultural importance (pdf) for the people of Mongolia. In 1995, Bogd Khan Uul was formally designated a 'Strictly Protected Area' in accordance with current Mongolian law. Bogd Khan Uul was further recognized for its ecological importance when it was awarded UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status in 1997.

Hover over "Notes" for photo information.

So, if one were going to undertake a conservation project focusing on forests in the central part of Mongolia, one would reckon on including it, right? Wrong.

Mongolian government takes action to support small businesses (or Inspections Gone Wild)

David Lawrence's picture

 

Restaurants in Mongolia can face fines for not having the right number of forks.
Mongolia's done a good job in reforming its business environment since the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. In Doing Business 2009, the country ranked 58th out of 181 economies and outperformed its neighbors, Russia and China, by significant margins. Well done. But that doesn't mean that things are easy for small businesses here. The overall business environment is a serious drag on Mongolia's development prospects, and the situation keeps getting worse as the financial crisis sinks its claws into the economy.

One area fully in Government control is business inspections. This is an important function: inspections protect the health and safety of the general public. But when inspections run wild, they can become a major burden to businesses, especially small ones. Inspections can impose large costs on businesses in terms of time and money, encourage firms to bribe their way out of violations, and even encourage entrepreneurs to operate in the shadows. That means less tax revenue and potentially dangerous products and services being offered to the public.

Is this a problem in Mongolia? Absolutely.

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