In Mongolia: Culture and Conservation set to Clash
June 20, 2007
Citizens across Mongolia are expressing increasing concern about water quality and water quantity accessible to them. Herding has been a Mongolian cultural and economic tradition for centuries, if not millennia, and many herders are community advocates. They commonly emphasize the need for conservation and responsible use of resources. Paradoxically, these herder-conservationists may exacerbate water quality and quantity concerns.
A dry winter and spring is fueling fears that rivers will fall further, and that more streams will vanish. If summer rains, which typically arrive in late June or early July, come late or not at all, Mongolia’s herd of more than 35 million animals could be devastatingly affected.
Although the contribution of livestock and livestock products to Mongolia’s gross domestic product has been diminishing, herding remains a major source of employment. If this industry suffers severe losses due to drought, another wave of herders may flock toward the dangerous and polluting artisanal and small mines that pockmark the countryside.
The legion of artisanal, or “ninja,” miners is growing, impelled by higher gold prices. Ninja ranks have swelled to more than 100,000, according to reliable estimates. These numbers will continue to increase rapidly with gold hovering closer to $700/oz, and particularly if herding is hard-hit this summer.
Ninja mining is dirty and hard work, but in a country where per capita income hovers barely over $1,000, ninja mining is salvation where alternative employment is non-existent. Men, and oftentimes adolescent boys, are lowered down shafts tens of meters deep, but barely large enough across to accommodate the buckets they fill with soil and hoist to the surface in the hopes of finding trace flecks of gold. Others use cyanide and mercury in deadly processes that are literally killing them, their families, and their communities.
This summer may see culture turn against conservation if the summer rains fail to arrive and herders continue to view artisanal mining as the only plausible alternative for their future livelihood.
William Foerderer Infante is The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Mongolia.
About our blog, In AsiaIn Asia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia\’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.
In Asia is posted and distributed every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ContactFor questions about In Asia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to email@example.com.
The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223
HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS ASIA
Promise and Flux in South Asian Electricity Trade
June 14, 2017
Infrastructure and Roads Investments in the Philippines
Forbes: Force Not Enough To Halt Islamic State-Inspired Violence In The Philippines
June 7, 2017
TIME: Afghanistan’s Front Line
June 7, 2017