Water crisis in Mongolia
Despite its vast expanse of land and natural resources, Mongolia has been facing a severe shortage of water since 2014. Hundreds of Mongolian lakes have dried up in recent years, and much of the southern land has experienced desertification. The remaining water sources are concentrated in northern Mongolia, leaving people in central and southern Mongolia unable to easily access water. Citizens of these areas must rely on groundwater to combat the issue of water scarcity.

Water quality is also a concern: many northern Mongolians live in rural settings without access to basic water supply infrastructure. In a 2013 survey, the Asia Foundation found that most rural Mongolians acquire half of their water from unprotected sources, such as lakes and rivers that lack modern water purification methods. The survey also found that most unprotected sources of water are susceptible to high levels of contamination from human waste, livestock and seasonal flooding. In the midst of this water crisis, two organizations have shown interest in aiding those without access to clean drinking water.

Aid from The Millennium Challenge Corp

One organization that has provided aid during the water crisis in Mongolia is the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The MCC provided a $350 million investment as part of the Mongolia Water Compact, signed in 2018, to supply the country with more water and improve water infrastructure throughout the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. The Mongolian government matched this investment with a $111.8 million investment to improve water purification, increase wastewater recycling and implement policies within the Mongolian government to sustain this new infrastructure. The MCC predicts that this investment will increase water supply in Mongolia’s capital city by more than 80 percent.

Tetra Tech’s Initiative

Another company working to solve the water crisis in Mongolia is Tetra Tech, an engineering services firm that specializes in water and infrastructure.  The most recent contract between Tetra Tech and Mongolia, drafted by the aforementioned Millennium Challenge Corp, grants Tetra Tech 30 million dollars for a water supply project that hopes to increase bulk water supply throughout the country and meet the growing demand in Ulaanbaatar. With this new budget, Tetra Tech hopes to install new groundwater wells, oversee a new wastewater recycling plant and manage a new water purification plant in Ulaanbaatar.

Ending the Water Crisis in Mongolia

The MCC’s generous investment combined with Tetra Tech’s experience with water supply and purification will help combat the water crisis in Mongolia. With an extended budget, Tetra Tech will have ample money to provide structurally sound purification and wastewater recycling plants for 80 percent of Mongolian citizens. As these organizations continue to make progress in this ambitious initiative, Mongolia works toward resolving the water crisis.

– Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

For the past few years, Mongolia has experienced a detrimental cycle of harsh weather conditions that has been termed “dzud.” Winters are defined by temperatures at -40 degrees Celsius or below, and spring shortages of food and water lead to intense loss of livestock. To top matters off, droughts in the summer make everything from vegetation to livestock to families suffer.

Herders predict the loss of their livestock and quickly attempt to sell what they have in the market for profit. They do this in order to save up money for another expected rough winter. However, when many herders try to do the same thing at the same time, the market value of each animal decreases and farmers end up without enough money to survive.

USAID documents that on January 20, 2016, the government of Mongolia officially declared dzud conditions and announced that the country was in need of immediate assistance. Humanitarian aid to Mongolia was vital.

Fortunately, the response was rapid. With help from the Mongolian government, and the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) assessed the situation and determined which groups were most vulnerable.

The plan wasn’t designed to put a long-term solution into play that would save Mongolia’s economy, but rather provide the necessary tools and resources to prevent death among thousands during the brutal winter. Basically, CERF provided humanitarian aid to Mongolia in the form of multi-purpose cash assistance for people at risk that allowed them to purchase essentials. In total, the U.N. provided $2.4 million to Mongolia through CERF. These funds bought basic but necessary food items, reproductive health kits for women and food and care for livestock. As a result, approximately 19,076 people received assistance necessary to beat starvation and death.

Without this form of humanitarian aid to Mongolia, thousands could have died or lost loved ones. Aside from saving lives, CERF strengthened the ties between Mongolia and international agencies, both aid and governmental. When countries are in need of assistance, this example in Mongolia shows that the international community is capable of responding rapidly and effectively.

— Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr