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S.Oyun: Yuruu and Mandal soum of Selenge Province weren’t granted permission to cut an excessive amount of trees

By B.DULGUUN

The following is an interview with the Minister of Environment and Green Development S.Oyun highlighting important aspects about the ministry’s activities and planned projects.

-The Ministry of Environment and Green Development announced this year as the “year of information transparency.” What kind of activities will be conducted as part of this declaration?

-Under the network of the year of environmental information transparency, we are planning to begin broadening the information database by conducting unified inventory of water pollutants, greenhouse gas, and forest wastes and develop methodologies to conduct census air polluting wastes. In 2014 work outline, we included many works to improve public services. For instance, transform 20 licenses issued by ministries to cyber format, making it possible to receive services related to the environment sector from the government via cell phones. Thereby, citizens, enterprises, customers and clients will receive useful environmental information much faster and more openly without heavy advertisements within the legal framework.

In 2014, we are working to process data and develop a database of the main and subdirectory of natural resources, forest and water resources. One of the most important works is to disclose state budget investment, in other words, disclose procurements of products purchased through state funding. One of around 10 newly approved laws for the environmental sector by the previous government is the law about natural resource exploitation payments. What natural resource income is spent on is clear. For instance, if we want to use five different resources, payments will be put into local budgets. How much money is used for protecting and restoring rivers and streams that are drying up will be disclosed to the public. The ministry will check these internal financial audits for disclosing. This means that the public is able to see who is exploiting natural resources, how much income they get from it and how they’re spending the income. We’re also aiming to develop calculation methodology of environmental statistical information. Within this framework, Chairman of the National Statistical Office S.Mendsaikhan signed the memorandum to improve the Environmental Statistic Information in January, 2014.

-You participated in the conference held in Delhi about environmental issues. What sorts of issues regarding sustainable development and environmental were discussed at the conference?

-Since 2001, sustainable development issues have been discussed at an international level and determined its course of action of implementation in Delhi. Major leaders, politicians, Nobel laureates, the General Secretary Head of the United Nations and presidents, prime ministers and ministers from all around the world participate in summits and share their thoughts. This year’s meeting was held from February 6 to 8.  The main topic was about the safety of energy, water and food. Countries around the world are focusing on meeting the increasing demand for energy, water and food as the population increases. Issues of environment degradation and depletion of natural resources are caused in order to supply these needs. Especially due to climate change, all corners of the world are having water supply shortage and adequacy which could cause a significant amount of water depletion in the near future.

Due to climate changes, water depletion, land degradation and desertification are constantly increasing and natural disasters started causing substantial adverse effects on food production and its supply. Energy supplies are directly connected to water and food safety. When producing energy with fossil fuels, greenhouse gases are emitted in substantial amounts and the environment is polluted which intensifies global warming. To ensure sustainable development for countries, we need to engage sustainable and environmentally friendly energy productions and determine how we can meet the increasing demand for clean water and food to provide for the increasing population. All of these issues were discussed in the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit.

-What issues did you bring up?

-I attended all events and meetings of the summit and shared my thoughts with representatives about sustainable development and green development issues and activities. I also attended ministerial-level meetings about overcoming the effects of climate change, introduced the effects climate change to Mongolian water resource, food and energy productions, and policies and projects Mongolia is implementing to overcome them. I also mentioned the need for countries to cooperate in resolving regional and global issues we’re currently facing.

We shared our views on issues that need cooperation to reduce effects of climate change, which include supporting policies for green development with low-carbon wastes, utilizing renewable energy technologies in energy productions, developing environmentally friendly technologies, and establishing financial mechanisms. Now it’s possible to cooperate with other countries and international organizations on issues discussed at the summit.

-This year, for the first time, the Forest Cleaning Program is going to be implemented and it is getting a lot of attention from local residents and organizations. Within the program, will you clean every forest?

-The Forest Cleaning Program that will be implemented at every forested region in Mongolia was approved by the cabinet. The Forest Research and Development Center will be responsible for the overall work. From their research, this year, forest cleaning will start from five soums, Mungunmorit and Batsuber of Tuv Province, and Mandal, Yuruu and Khuder of Selenge Province. In the last 10 years, in Mongolia, there were around 1,400 fires at steppe and forests which caused 90 billion MNT worth of ecological damages, two billion MNT worth property damages and direct cost of 1.5 billion MNT for emergency management. One of the reasons responsible for such dangerous conditions is connected to lack of forest cleaning. Accumulating a large amount of dry wood in forests and increasing supplies of flammable materials becomes the foundation for fires. This program will be implemented in two stages, from 2014 to 2016 and from 2016 to 2020. The government assigned governors of soums and provinces with forests to provide staff support.

Four ministries will work within the Forest Cleaning Program. Our ministry is in charge of conducting detailed research of forests in need of cleaning, including the expense for isolating perimeters in annual budgets and organizing forest cleaning for the ecosystem. The Ministry of Labor is in charge of supporting the program implementation and giving professional assistance by establishing the Green Workplace for conducting forest cleanings. The Ministers of Food, Agriculture and Industry, and Economical Development are in charge of producing new products with prepared wood from the cleanings and establishing factories with modern technologies.

-What other major programs are you planning this year?

-In 2014, forest inventory will be organized and major programs determining forest biomass, biodiversity, variety of carbon and carbon absorbance capacity will be implemented.

-The draft law to add changes in the Gun Control Law was submitted to the parliament. For the first time, the ministry of the sector is initiating a fight against illegal hunting.

-With the initiative of the Minister of Justice, the Gun Control Law was redeveloped and discussed by the cabinet and submitted to the parliament. In this draft, hunting animals with semi automatic fire arms will be stopped by specifying fire arms for hunting. Our ministry proposed four main regulations for the draft. You mustn’t think that we’re voicing illegal hunting concerns for the first time. In 2012, we approved our revised Animal Law and the related implementation policies were approved. The implementation started 2013. We gave local citizens the power to supervise, protect and manage the protection of endangered animals and to use incomes from it back for protecting animals. A near example would be March 3, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as World Wildlife Day in December 2013. Countries around the world will start celebrating this day from 2014.

-It was said that you gave Yuruu and Mandal soum of Selenge Province the permission to log excessive amount of wood. Last week, you were criticized for carrying out the policy to destroy the forest instead of protecting it and this became a huge issue on facebook and twitter. How accurate is this information?

-It’s inaccurate information. The Minister of Environment and Green Development has to determine the maximum use of wood and firewood for each year for provinces. According to the A-145 Decree of December 26, 2012, maximum of 39,300 cubic meters of timber was approved for logging in 2013 in Selenge Province for local consumption. In 2014, 29,600 cubic meters of consumption were determined. As you can see from this, compared to 2013, 2014’s amount of logging has been reduced by almost 10,000 cubic meters. As stated in the Forest Law, the right to determine and approve the maximum amount of logging from forests and logging allocations to soums is given to the chairman of the local province councils and governors.

In other words, ministers allocate to provinces and provinces allocate to soums. Our ministry supervises whether or not the allocation was executed in accordance with the law. In fact, the ministry tries to keep the amount of logging from forests as little as possible through its policies. We made the parliament and government exempt taxes on value added logging goods and the taxes from imported wood and wooden materials became zero. By order of the minister, logging for railway sleepers is banned for six years.

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