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Age old Mongolian nomadic heritage under threat due to mining

By B.KHASH-ERDENE

Mongolia is facing many environmental issues such as desertification, inadequate water supply and air and water pollution largely caused by mining and whose burden falls heavily on the herders who are the last keepers of the thousands of years old nomadic culture of the Mongols.
More than 90 percent of Mongolian revenue comes from mining. The Oyu Tolgoi (OT) project is the biggest mining project undertaken in the country and is expected to make up more than third of the gross domestic product (GDP) growth when it is fully operational next year.
“This single mining project is one of the main reasons for the amazing economic growth in the country,” Dale Choi, an analyst at Origo Partners said. “It will be a huge source of employment, and will help improve the living standard for the whole country.”
It will not come without cost to the people and animals living in range of the mine.
“The economic impact of OT is visible on the streets of Khanbogd, the town nearest the site. Most of Khanbogd’s resident still live in traditional nomadic tents which has grown from 2000 a decade ago to over 7000 today, not including workers housed at the mine itself,” reported Kit Gillet, New York Times journalist.
Herders, whose numbers are dwindling, look back on the past and wonder about the future. They have raised their families on these grasslands for generations but as illness, lack of water and grasslands become fixtures in their lives, they find themselves in a quandary.
“In the old days, all of the grassland and valleys had herders and their animals,” said Baanchig Oodoi, 61 according to the New York Times, who was raised in a herding family and has lived all her life in and around the town of Khanbogd.
“In recent years, herder numbers have gotten smaller as many of the have moved to the town to work for mining companies,” said Oodoi.
Narantsetseg Logii, a doctor at the Health Sciences University of Mongolia said, “The high level of respiratory illness in the southern Gobi is due to the influence of the mining companies, as well as to the influx of people into the region and the subsequently increase in building projects.”
“Increases in mining activity also make the recognition of land rights especially important, so that herders’ voices may be heard in defending and seeking compensation for land loss and displacement,” said Dr Caroline Upton, the principal investigator for the Community, Place and Pastoralism: Nature and Society in Post-Soviet Central Asia, a two year study.
Ownership of the land has also been called into questions as mines expand.
“However, centuries old tradition of mobility, flexibility and reciprocity should not be lost. As not pastoral cultures have found, “modernity” does not necessarily equate with sedentarisation or privatization. Nomadic heritages and practices retain great value.” Upton said.
The residents of Khanbogd and the Umnu Gobi province feel that the prosperity of the country will come at their expense, especially those who continue to earn living through animal husbandry in the dry expanse and who rely on “delicate relationship with nature.”
Whether it is worth mining to improve the country, at the cost of the age old nomadic culture and herding which is a significant entity in the nations identity, is yet to be seen.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=2057

Posted by on Nov 30 2012. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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