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Environmental Poverty in Mongolia
The biosphere is rapidly deteriorating and nomadic life in Mongolia is paying a high price. Those who lose their livestock to severe weather conditions also lose their main source of revenue and safety. Many abandon their farms to pursue a life in the cities, where other calamities await. Today, the situation of environmental poverty in Mongolia has grown direr than ever.

The Problem of Landowners

Mongolia’s abrupt transition from a Soviet satellite state into a free market economy left little room for nomads to enjoy fiscal mobility. Shortly after lands were privatized, opportunists secured farmlands and promptly overexploited them. These elites would excessively hoard horses, sheep and yak, who would subsequently mow the grounds down to bare land. Nomads, who had lived as if the land was shared and had known how to properly cultivate and harvest from their farms, were left in the dust. Today, 80% of the country’s livestock belongs to the richest 20% of owners.

The agricultural inexperience of many of these owners came at environmental and economic costs. “Herding is a skill that you learn over a lifetime,” says Dr. Timothy May, professor in Eurasian Studies at the University of North Georgia. “Being a nomad looks like you’re just raising animals and the animals know what to do, but you have to know how to manage the animals. What would work with their pastures and so forth.”

Natural Catastrophes

Overfarming and other sorts of extraction, such as mining, have grown into large-scale issues like pollution and public health conditions. Gers, tent-like structures that serve as portable houses, are often heated by burning raw coal and cheap minerals. Particulate air matter or dust particles clog the air and damage respiratory systems. As a result, pneumonia is currently the leading cause of death in the country.

Possibly the most devastating climate crisis, however, is the largest determinant of nomadic poverty. Dzuds are various natural catastrophes specific to Mongolia’s shifts in weather and are only growing in size and severity. Of the five types of dzuds, the most commonly known is a tsaagan dzud. During these, a layer of ice or snow blocks animals from reaching food or water, leaving them to die in mass groups. In 2010, 20% of the country’s animals were wiped out as a result. This year, many experts are suggesting the risk of a dzud is unnervingly high.

Environmental Poverty on the Rise

With each environmental change, nomads are increasingly vulnerable to the clutches of poverty. Cities like Ulaanbaatar are already saturated with public health concerns like food insecurity and urban populations are still growing. Maternal mortality and water scarcity are further complicating the issue.

Not all hope is lost, however. Dr. May suggests that by empowering skilled nomads, they could start to untangle the economic and environmental damages. “Nomadic lifestyle is better not only for the animals but the quality of the product, there is an industry that can be there,” he says, “because there’s plenty of money to be made with the nomadic life….They can feed the country — they can be self-sufficient, and with plenty to export.” These recommendations, among other solutions, are important to addressing the cycle of environmental poverty in Mongolia.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Pollution in Mongolia
Pollution is just as much of a problem in the developing world as it is in the developed world, perhaps even more so. For one, developing countries cannot always afford to fight it. Additionally, oftentimes pollution is created directly by what is needed to survive. This is the case in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. Efforts to address pollution in Mongolia go hand-in-hand with helping the poor.

Pollution and Poverty

Many people in Ulaanbaatar, often impoverished, rely heavily on coal to keep themselves warm during cold winters. The problem is that the widespread usage of coal concentrated in one area creates a great deal of air pollution. Temperatures in the city rarely reach above the upper 60s, creating an almost yearlong reliance on coal.

In turn, air pollution negatively impacts the impoverished in Ulaanbaatar, where poverty is increasing. Many struggling Mongolian families deal with the unhealthy air firsthand. Air pollution can cause a variety of health problems, including lung and heart diseases. As the impoverished are likely to be unable to afford or access high-quality health care, this often leads to higher mortality rates.

Potential Solutions

The most straightforward solution would be to do away with coal usage. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done, considering the temperatures in Ulaanbaatar. The government would need to establish more sustainable and better methods of heating to provide people with the necessary heating to survive. It is also essential for these methods to be affordable to ensure the impoverished can use them. Two alternative methods are geothermal heating and underfloor heating.

Geothermal heating involves using the underground to heat a home, as the temperatures underground are often reliably warmer than above-ground temperatures. Installing geothermal heating pumps requires finding suitable areas underground to drill. Unfortunately, the pumps can also be expensive to install; humanitarian organizations would need to provide significant funding to set up this heating system in Ulaanbaatar.

Another viable method of heating is underfloor heating. It is similar to geothermal heating but a bit less work and has significant benefits such as being much cheaper than other heating sources and eliminating drafts entirely. However, it also requires funding for installation. The installation could help those in poverty, however, as it could utilize local workers for the construction.

Underfloor heating may also be the better alternative because many poor Mongolians have a nomadic lifestyle and the installation must take place in unused areas. With an understanding of migration patterns, underfloor heating could be installed in areas that are currently in disuse so that it is ready to be used when people return.

Moving Forward

Pollution in Mongolia continues to be an issue, particularly in cities like Ulaanbaatar. With concerns about health problems associated with high air pollution, it is clear that a sustainable alternative to coal needs to be implemented. Implementation, however, will require significant funding from the Mongolian government and humanitarian organizations. Moving forward, it is essential that these groups make addressing pollution in the country a priority of their efforts. Pollution and poverty are intertwined; pollution must be adequately addressed in order to eradicate poverty.

Remy Desai-Patel
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in Mongolia

Mongolia experienced a relatively democratic revolution in the early 1990s. As a result, the country formed a multi-party system, wrote a new constitution and even created new means of economic growth. Mongolia is abundant in resources and its economy has been supported by the country’s established mining and agricultural sector. The country also boasts some successes as it has worked to pass a variety of new legislation. For example, legislation that strengthens inclusive governance and reduces gender disparities. Despite engagement in its future, there are still challenges of continuing poverty in Mongolia. Furthermore, Mongolia faces a lack of access to equal opportunities that would improve livelihoods. Here are ten facts about poverty in Mongolia which present some of those challenges in more detail.

10 Facts About Poverty in Mongolia

  1. There has been a decrease in the prices of coal and copper – These were previously two of Mongolia’s main export products. This has influenced the decrease in growth percentage over the last decade. Compared to 11.6 percent growth in 2013, Mongolia has been experiencing decreasing economic growth in the single digits. In 2016, the growth percentage was at a low 1.2 percent.
  2. Development growth is reducing poverty rates – Though there has been a recent economic downturn, Mongolia’s overall development growth has helped to reduce poverty rates in the country. Poverty rates decreased from 38.7 percent in 2010 to 27.4 percent in 2012. That difference is greater than 11 percent.
  3. Poverty rates are barely decreasing – According to an estimation conducted by the National Statistical Office and the World Bank, Mongolia’s recent estimation in 2018 shows that 28.4 percent of the population is below the poverty line. This is a decrease of slightly over one percent from the 2016 estimate.
  4. Income inequality is continuing the cycle of poverty – What continues to reinforce poverty in Mongolia is its income inequality. Poverty rates are higher in rural areas compared to urban areas at 35.5 percent versus 23.2 percent. Subsequently, many people move to Ulaanbaatar. That is Mongolia’s most densely populated city, home to 60 percent of the population. The living conditions in the outskirts of the city lack basic services, resulting in a lower quality of life. For example, sanitation or primary education is not available there. Additionally, jobs in the larger city require more qualified skills which newcomers do not have. With these factors, poverty rates are constant and unemployment rates stagger in Ulaanbaatar.
  5. Rural areas lack access to sanitation – In urban areas, two-thirds of the population has access to working sanitation. However, in rural areas, only 36 percent of the population has access. In the poorest households of rural areas, slightly over 10 percent have access to those resources.
  6. The “100-Day Plan” aims to improve the economy – In April of 2014, Mongolia’s prime minister launched a “100-day action plan” intended to boost the economy. The plan has a 50-point agenda that covers various areas of the economy such as manufacturing and the development of small businesses, to lift more people out of poverty. An economic council oversees the action plan, jump-starts the projects and reports back to the Prime Minister. The plan works to address current needs but the country will need a sustainable strategy to benefit the economy and populations long-term.
  7. People who escaped poverty are in danger of becoming impoverished again – Even those who make it above the poverty line in Mongolia are vulnerable to slipping back under. In fact, this is a sign of unsustainable economic support. The National Statistical Office noted that this is due to the consumption level of people who get out of poverty being at the bare minimum. Their report presents that those who were above the poverty line in 2014 returned under in 2015 and 2016. This was due to sudden and negative socioeconomic decreases.
  8. There is a lack of educational opportunities – Families living in poverty, especially in rural areas, have trouble finding consistent and equal educational opportunities for their children. However, organizations like UNICEF are impacting changes in education among all students. The Basic Education Programme has assisted the Mongolian government in providing socioeconomic services to families in poor regions. Additionally, the program has helped to reduce secondary school drop-outs by 68 percent.
  9. Infant mortality is high – A vast household survey conducted in 2010 uncovered that infant mortality rates in rural areas are double that of urban areas. Additionally, children in poor households are three times more likely to be underweight than children in wealthy households. Growing up below the poverty line can influence a Mongolian child’s survival rate.
  10. Urban area populations are growing which can result in a geographical transfer of poverty rates – The World Bank stated that between 2016 and 2018, the poverty rate decreased by four percent in rural areas, though the rate is still high. It also increased by 0.1 percent in urban areas. Poverty is highly concentrated in these urban areas.

Looking to the Future

These 10 facts about poverty in Mongolia show that the country’s transition has come with many struggles in its fight to better people’s livelihoods. However, as the country gains more income, there is a chance for more diverse opportunities in job placement which will raise economic growth. As long as poverty-reduction measures are included in the development of the country, poverty rates can decrease in the future.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty Rate in MongoliaThe decrease in the poverty rate in Mongolia is a slowly developing story that is trending in the direction of success. As of 2015 – due to Mongolia not publishing reports detailing its poverty statistics on a regular basis – the country’s poverty rate stood at 22 percent, which marks a decrease from its previous rate of 28 percent.

While this rate is still dramatically too high, it demonstrates that the correct efforts are being taken to decrease the poverty rate in Mongolia and should be studied and replicated in other impoverished countries.

Of the information available regarding the poverty rate in Mongolia, it is even more impressive that the country has managed to reduce its poverty rate in both its urban and, even more so, its rural environments. Urban poverty is typically easier to weed out because urban environments often see the benefits of economic development, which unfortunately take significantly longer to reach rural areas.

In the years 2012 and 2014, rural areas in Mongolia saw their poverty rates fall by nine percent and accounted for half the reduction in poverty during that two-year period. This decrease in poverty can be attributed to the spurt of economic growth that Mongolia has experienced over the past decade. Mainly due to the growth of its mining industry, Mongolia has enjoyed double digit growth rates, significantly helping to generate income for the country’s poor population.

That the Mongolian economy relies on mining, however, may prove to be its downfall and may force the poverty rate in Mongolia to once again take an upward turn. As the demand for coal and copper – Mongolia’s primary mineral resources – continues to fall, it will become imperative to develop a new industry to support the ongoing drop in its poverty rate.

Assisting in the reduction of poverty in Mongolia is the growth of its capital Ulaanbaatar. As it continues to gain significance in Asia and the rest of the world, it will allow for more money to be diverted to poverty reduction efforts and allow more jobs to be created. By creating more jobs in Mongolia’s capital city, people will increasingly be able to save money and eventually climb the economic ladder out of poverty.

– Garrett Keyes

Photo: Flickr