The following were culled from Mongolia's two English weeklies,
The UB Post and The Mongol Messenger.
|Culture||Politics||Economy||Briefly||Odds & Ends|
Century in Review
1911 – National Liberation Movement - In the 1720s, Mongolia was conquered by the Manchu Qing dynasty and remained under its rule for 267 years. A national movement to gain independence from this colonisation resulted in a revolution. Khalkh, or Outer, Mongolia was a key place of the Mongolian national liberation movement during the 1910s. In 1911, the Mongolians overthrew Qing rule. As a result, Mongolia announced its independence. The eighth reincarnation of the Jebtzundamba Khutuktu, the “Living Buddha”, ascended to the throne of the Bogd Khaan, Head of Church and State, The Sunlight, on December 29, 1911.
1921 – People’s Revolution - On June 25, 1920, the Mongolian People’s Party was established during a secret meeting of a group of dissidents which included D. Sukhbaatar. This revolutionary organisation was the first political party that represented the proletariat in Mongolian history. The party delegation led by Sukhbaatar met with Vladimir Lenin in Moscow in 1920 to gain support from Soviet Russia. On March 1-3, 1921, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party was established by the first Congress of the MPP in Khiagt City. The Marxist party would subsequently gain proletarian support from the Soviet Union. Following the People’s Revolution, victory was achieved, and Mongolia was renamed the Mongolian People’s Republic in its first Constitution, adopted in 1924 – becoming the first communist country in Asia.
1937 – Political Purges -1937 was the darkest year in Mongolian history. No one knows exactly how many Mongolian suffered executions, imprisonment or exile around this time, but it is estimated that more than 30,000 Mongolians died at the height of the repression in the 1930s, during the reign of Stalinist stooge Kh. Choibalsan. The worst terror occurred between September 1937 and April 1939. In a year-and-a-half, more than 25,000 people were arrested, of whom 20,000 were killed. The majority of the victims were Buddhist monks, targeted in a deliberate campaign of anti-religion rampages.
1939 – Khalkh Gol War -The Japanese military pierced the country’s eastern border, threatening Mongolia’s independence. The first border conflict was on January 24, 1935, in Khalkh Gol soum, Dornod aimag. Altogether, there were an estimated 60 border attacks between 1935 and 1939. On May 11, 1939, the Khalkh Gol War was initiated by Japan. Their military was repelled by Mongolian-Soviet forces until September 16 of that same year.
1930s-1970s – Industrialisation - The industrialisation movement started in 1933 with the help of the former Soviet Union. In the 1960s, the socialist government of Mongolia proudly announced that the nation had turned into an agricultural and industrial country from merely a livestock breeding society. The main industrial sectors – mining, food production, and light industry – were founded in the 1970s. In 1985, fifty percent of the GDP was generated from the industrial sector.
1961 – Mongolia Joins the United Nations - After several attempts, Mongolia joined the United Nations in 1961. It was a historical moment for the country, which had such a small population and weak economy. Mongolia was then recognised as an independent nation. Right up to 1961, only a few communist countries had accepted Mongolia’s nation status – superpowers such as Great Britain and the United States did not recognise Mongolia as a sovereign country. Following Mongolia’s acceptance as the 102nd member of the UN, the West began sending diplomats and various government officials to set up embassies and other government offices in the country. The British Embassy was the first to be established, in 1963.
One benefit of coming out of centuries of isolation was the sharing of equal rights. Mongolia actively participates in approving international laws regarding ocean transportation rights – a big step for a land-locked nation.
1970 – Public Literacy - In 1970, Mongolia was honoured with the UNESCO Literacy Award because 99% of its population above the age of eight had high literacy levels. Compulsory education by the age of eight became law in 1956 – the first time in the history of Mongolia that all people were able to receive an education.
Because of this legislation, the population, including senior citizens, began their education with much fervor. In the past decade, though, literacy levels have fallen off. According to O. Chimedregzen, Secretary General of the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO, the literacy rate now stands at an estimated 80%.
The government declared that the 1990s would be the decade of literacy campaigns. A symposium was held in Ulaanbaatar in 1987 for this purpose, under the recommendation of the United Nations.
”Although the assessment has not been completed, some Asian and African countries, such as Vietnam, North Korea, China, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, have achieved a higher literacy rate during the past decade,” Mr. Chimedregzen explained.
1981 – Trip to Space -March 22 was a memorable day for Mongolia back in 1981: the first Mongolian cosmonaut blasted into outer space. J. Gurragchaa co-piloted the Soyuz-39 rocket with Soviet cosmonaut and pilot Vladimir Janibekov after inter-governmental agreements were made to create an “InterCosmos” space programme for communist nations.
1989 – Democratic Revolution - By the end of the 1980s, the communist system collapsed entirely, and a democratic system of governance started in Mongolia. The Democratic Union was officially announced on December 10, 1989, and the first political demands and debates on law, human rights, and freedom of the press began.
The democratic movement formed in Mongolia, and its society began to get involved. 1990 was the summit of political struggles in this country. The first half of 1990 was full of demonstrations, with demonstrators numbering up to 90,000. Demands, petitions, and labour and hunger strikes called on political reforms.
1998 – Zorig Murder Case - On October 2, 1998, Sanjaasurengiin Zorig, a prominent democracy campaigner, was killed in his home. He was stabbed 18 times by two assailants as he returned home from the office at around 10 o’clock on a Friday evening. It was just before he, the acting Infrastructure Minister, had gained the approval of President N. Bagabandi for his name to be put before Parliament as a nominee for the Prime Ministership. S. Zorig was one of the first leaders of the Democratic Revolution, a bespectacled student founder of the Mongolian Democratic Association, and a galvanising force in the 1900 demonstrations. He was elected to the State Ikh Khural in the Democratic Coalition’s 1996 sweep; he was appointed Minister of Infrastructure and Development in May 1998.
Top Ten National Events of 2000
1. Population Census. Conducted once a decade, this year’s tally found that the Mongolian population has grown to 2,373,500. (January) 2. Dzud. Mongolia suffers a snow disaster known as dzud, losing 2.4 million head of livestock. (January-March) 3. Highway. “A”-class road connecting the nation’s capital of Ulaanbaatar with Sukhbaatar aimag becomes a reality. (June) 4. Elections. In parliamentary and local elections, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) takes the majority. (July/October) 5. Wrestling. State “Elephant” A. Sukhbat wins the national wrestling championship at the Naadam Festival and is awarded the highest title of State “Lion”. (July) 6. Sydney 2000 Olympics. Mongolian athletes come away empty handed from the Sydney Games – the first such loss for the nation since the 1964 Olympics. (September) 7. Culture. The third edition of the Mongolian encyclopedia is published. (November) 8. International. Russian President Vladimir Putin pays a visit to Mongolia – the highest official visit from Russia in 26 years. (December) 9. Constitution. Parliament approves amendments to the Constitution. (December) 10. Politics. Five political parties merge to create the Democratic Party. (December)
Sports Highlights 2000
The annual Tsaagan Sar (Lunar New Year) Wrestling Competition of 256 wrestlers draws an unusual opponent for renowned wrestler B. Bat-Erdene. Ts. Magaljav, “Lion” title-holder form Sukhbaatar aimag, faced the Avarga or “Super Grand Giant”. Magaljav is the first wrestler to reach the national competition based on his success in just one aimag. Bat-Erdene wins the match, breaking his own record of 12 wins at Tsaagan Sar.
512 wrestlers participate in the Naadam Festival, including 5 Giants, 6 Lions, 21 Elephants, and 50 Falcons. Famous wrestling Giant Kh. Bayanmunkh has the honour of watching his son B. Gantogtokh and son-in-law A. Sukhbat reach the final (9th) wrestling round. Before the final round begins, B. Bat-Erdene forfeits his match with wrestler B. Gantogtokh. The two Elephant-level competitors wrestle for approximately 40 minutes during the final bout. A. Sukhbat, who won the state title of Elephant two years ago, defeats his elder brother-in-law, B. Gantogtokh, in the overtime match. For the past decade, no other wrestler has been able to achieve the highest crown of “Lion”.
Mongolian bicyclist J. Olzii-Orshikh is awarded the silver medal at a cycling tournament in Shanghai, China. 187 cyclists from 16 countries take part in the 198km race. J. Olzii-Orshikh is a 15-time national champion and has won seven medals – of all colours – from international competitions.
The 2nd AVC Eastern Zone Volleyball Championships are held in Ulaanbaatar for the first time. Female and male teams from Japan, Hong Kong, mainland China, and Macao compete in the tournament. The Mongolian team takes the silver medal for the first time.
Mongolian junior athletes return to their homeland with 27 medals after competing in the 2nd Children of Asia Games. A total of 1,178 junior athletes from 12 countries participate in the games. Mongolia’s 150 junior athletes participate in 10 of the 13 sport categories. The Mongolian team finishes in 6th place.
Mongolian athletes return home from the 27th Olympic Games empty handed. The International Olympic Committee announces that on 16 October, some wrestlers will be stripped of their medals after failing a drug test at the Sydney Games. One of those accused of doping was Mongolia’s Oyunbileg Purevbaatar, who tests positive for the drug Diuretic Furosemide after he finished fifth in the 58kg category. He is disqualified, and his results are wiped from the books.
Eleven Mongolian sumo wrestlers compete in the Japanese “Yusho” Grand Sumo Tournament in all six ranks. D. Dabvadorj – known as Asashyoru on the island – jumps to Makuuchi rank. With eleven wins and four losses, he ends at Juryo rank, but will be permitted to compete at the Makuuchi rank in the next tournament in January 2001. His achievement hits the headlines in the world of sumo wrestling, for he has seen a mere two tournaments at the Juryo rank.
The Mongolian National Chess Teams returns home, having competed successfully in the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey. Mongolian chess player Z. Byambaa competes with top chess players from Turkey, Argentina, Macao, and Greece to win the bronze by a score of 5.5.
Mongolian wrestler Kh. Batkhishig wins a gold medal in the women’s 68kg category from the World Senior Sambo Wrestling Championships. The competition is held in Kiev, Ukraine. Three silver medals are taken by women wrestlers Sh. Tsevelmaa, N. Otgontsetseg, and B. Mongontuya, who win in the 52kg, 56kg and 60kg categories, respectively.
Mongolian Women’s Sambo Wrestling Team returns home with prizes. E. Gereltuya, Ts. Urjin, T. Battogs, G. Tserenpil, and E. Dolgormaa take gold medals in the 48kg, 52kg, 60kg, 80kg, and +80kg categories from the World Amateur Sambo Wrestling Championships held in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia.
Sixty-Five Years of Mongolian Movies
’People holding flags, placards and flowers march in front of state leaders and officials standing on a rostrum. They are celebrating the 47th anniversary of May 1, 1935 – National Labour Day.’
This is a scene from the first silent short documentary film made by Mongolian filmmakers in 1936.
On the 65th anniversary of Mongolia’s film industry, filmmakers, directors and producers met to discuss the present situation of Mongolia’s film industry and recall the past.
Monogolians were introduced to film in 1910 by Chinese business people trading in Ulaanbaatar. The Chinese brought silent films from across the border and showed them to the capital city’s growing population.
A resolution made by the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the MPRP in 1932 stated, “Movies are a major way to educate people in politics.” According to the resolution, the Minister’s Council made a decision to establish film studios with the assistance of the Soviet Union, bringing in Russian technicians and specialists.
After the victory of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) in 1921, the MPRP began to make propaganda films. The film studio ‘Mongol Kino’ opened in 1935, and its first feature-length film was Norjmoogiin Zam (“Norjmoo’s Way”), made in 1938. This propaganda film on the modern benefits of European medicine criticised the tradition of visiting lamas for medicines and healing.
”Mongolian culture, and especially filmmakers, were forced to propagate the views of only one political party, so from the very start, the main themes were usually historical-revolutionary stories,” says producer Ts. Zabdraa, in his book, Base of Movie Art.
Until 1990, Mongol Kino was given an annual budget by the government to produce a certain number of movies a year, which were viewed, and, if necessary, censored by the government.
Censorship no longer exists, but the government has stopped funding Mongol Kino. Films are now made independently by private studios and private sector business people.
”Everyone whose life is connected with movie art should make greater efforts to develop professional movies,” said producer G. Jigjidsuren. This goal is not that attainable – funding is difficult to find, and producers have to go abroad to develop their negatives.”
Palaeontological Museum for Ulaanbaatar
Japan has proposed to provide funding to Mongolia to open a museum of palaeontology. If the deal goes ahead, the museum may be open by 2002.
The Mongolian government hopes that the museum would be a boost to the tourist industry – but a museum would also mark the achievements of Mongolian palaeontologists and reveal to a wider audience Mongolia’s rich natural resources.
R. Barsbold, director of the Palaeontological Institute of the Scientific Academy, says, “American scientists believe that Mongolian research work on dinosaurs is second after American research. However, Canadian scientists believe that Mongolia leads the way in dinosaur research.”
The hunt for fossils in Mongolia began in 1921, with an expedition to the Gobi led by the infamous American, Roy Chapman Andrews. The American press nicknamed Andrews’ expedition “The Missing Link”. While Andrews did not discover the Missing Link, his findings paved the way for further research, and proved that during the Cretaceous period, 80 million years ago, there had been a land bridge between northeast Asia and North America, allowing Ceratopsians to migrate and evolve to become the buffaloes, rhinos and elephants that we are so familiar with today.
Mongolian and Polish palaeontologists began their expeditions in the mid-1960s.
One of their great finds, in the Gobi’s Nemegt Hills, was a tarbosaur, measuring about two-and-a-half metres in length, found ‘lying on its side, with its head thrown back, its legs drawn up, its tail bent… Preserved in the exact position in which the animal had met its death 80 million years ago.”
The Pole Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, an acknowledged expert on Cretaceous fossils, uncovered a proto- and velociraptor locked in mortal combat at Togrogiin Shiree. The velociraptor’s arm is in the proto’s mouth, its hindlegs scrabbling at the proto’s neck. The ‘fighting dinosaurs’ are now an exhibit in Ulaanbaatar’s Natural History Museum.
Mongolian scientists such as Perle, Dashzeveg, Batsukh, and others will hopefully receive the recognition they deserve if the museum opens – lack of government funding has often hindered their research and seen them sidelined.
”We are scientists, and we have expenses; but we are getting from the state just our salary, and absolutely no other expenses for science. In this time, in America, professors get, who knows, perhaps $100,000 a year. I receive $110 a month.”
The Mongolian government estimates it has received $500,000 from the state budget for dinosaur research.
N.B. On a more sour note, a report filed to The Mongol Messenger informs us that an unnamed, middle-aged British woman has handed over several thousand dollars to a Frenchman for the purchase of a dinosaur egg, and is currently awaiting delivery of the egg. The woman is intending to transport the egg home via train, to avoid searches at airports. Selling, trading and purchasing of rare artefacts, fossils and antiques for export is highly illegal.
Tracking the Desert -
Excerpt from Gobi: Tracking the Desert, by John Man
They had made an astonishing discovery – sedimentary strata laid down during the Cretaceous period between 140 and 65 million years ago, the end of what was then known as the Age of Reptiles – in other words, dinosaurs. The basin proved to be part of a much larger depression, 25,000 square kilometres in size. Some of the sediments were over thirty metres thick, proof that a hundred million years ago, this desolate place of sandy mounds and thorn bushes had been a land of lakes. Nor were they just Cretaceous beds. The lakes had lasted for more millions of years, their shore and shallows supporting successions of reptiles and mammals. In more recent sediments, dating from about 38 million years ago, lay the skeleton of a giant hornless rhino, Baluchitherium, named from fragments found in Baluchistan. When the creature was restored in New York, it turned out to be the largest land mammal ever, standing five metres at the shoulder, with a head that could nibble leaves seven metres above the ground.
One older bed of red sandy clay contained countless smooth, curved platelets. They looked for all the world like bits of egg. Were they turtles? Birds? No one knew. They were labelled ‘doubtful material’, and set aside for later analysis.
Andrews and his team were ecstatic. The finds more than justified the leap of faith, the effort, the expenditure. More than that, though: these fossil-rich sediments must extend throughout the Gobi. There had to be other treasures beneath their feet, and more ahead of them. Andrews agreed to divide the expedition, the geologists remaining to work in Eren Dabasu for ten days, while everyone else pushed on to Urga, past ruined monasteries and abandoned plains, to catch up with the camel train and negotiate work permits from officials.
This required careful diplomacy. Andrews and his capitalist-imperialist entourage had emerged with apparent ease from the land of Mongolia’s former master and present enemy. Mongol officials, now tightly under Russian control, were deeply suspicious. It took two weeks for Andrews and his Mongolian fixer to win them over. They managed it only by promising to capture a legendary ‘worm’ that lived in the Gobi, a sixty-centimetre-long sausage-shaped beast ‘that has no head nor legs, and is so poisonous that merely to touch it means instant death.’ A cabinet minister swore that a cousin of his late wife’s sister had actually seen the animal. (In Mongolian, it is the ‘olgoi khorkhoi’, the ‘colon-shaped worm’, and it is still believed by some to exist.) Andrews promised that if he saw one, he would seize it with his collecting forceps, wearing dark glasses as a protection. That settled, they were on their way.
From Urga, the expedition headed southwest, to the eastern end of the mountain massifs, the three Bogd ranges. Successes built on success.
Living animals were shot, the fossilised exhumed. Another Baluchitherium, its skull spotted by Andrews himself; bits of fossil rodents so abundant, ‘it seemed as though they had been sowed like grain with a lavish hand’; a mastodon with serrate teeth; corals dating back perhaps 350 million years. All went into the crates and onto the trucks and cars for shipments to New York.
Still, the best was yet to come. It happened by chance. The expedition was in the high plains spanning the gap between the final Bogd range and the Three Beauties, a few miles north of the spot where Ariunaa and I had found the wrestlers. It was the first day of September, and the nights were frosty with the promise of winter. Scanning the new snow that already capped the Bogd, Andrews declared that their departure would be halted by nothing less than the discovery of the ‘Missing Link himself’. (In 1922, on such a masculine enterprise, no one spoke of female fossils.).
The Americans were heading north, planning to join the trans-Gobi trail leading back to the Chinese border; but they did not know where they were. Spotting a collection of gers, Andrews walked over with his interpreter to ask the way. They were at a spot which sounded to them like Shabarakh Usu. While he did so, the expedition’s photographer, J. B. Shackeflford, wandered in the opposite direction, and found himself standing on the edge of a sandstone basin, just the sort of place for fossils.
Promising himself that if he found nothing in ten minutes, he would return to the cars, he climbed down the steep slope of a soft rock, and at once saw a fossil on the top of a little pinnacle. It was a tiny skull, six inches long, lying almost fully exposed, on the point of being eroded out by the next storm. He simply scratched away its soft matrix, pick it up and carried it back to the others. No one had seen anything like it, but Granger declared it was a previously unknown type of reptile, news that was enough to demand a day’s further research.
They made camp on the edge of the sandstone depression, and spent the rest of the afternoon walking, climbing and probing this odd and beautiful formation. The place was a treasure trove of fossils – including some more eggshell-like fragments – from which they retreated only after the setting sun had turned the pink rocks to flame and the clefts to rivers of darkness.
A Visual History
”Historical Photos of Mongolia in the 20th Century”, a photo exhibition showing how the lifestyle of Mongolians has changed since 1900, opened at the Fine Art Gallery on January 11. The exhibition includes one hundred rare and historical photos of Ikh Khuree (Ulaanbaatar). important historical events are documented. Highlights include the opening ceremony to dismantle the autonomous rule of Mongolia in 1919, the dismantling of the monument of Galsantseveen, a former minister in 1929, and the trial of counter-revolutionaries.
The exhibits are taken by photographers of the “Fotomon” photo agency, some photographs come from individuals, and photographs from Russian and French archives were released to the Fotomon Agency and the State Archives. The exhibits have been repaired and enhanced by computer programmers. The exhibition is organised by the Fotomon Agency and is sponsored by the Soros Foundation.
The exhibition will run for two weeks.
Secret History of the Mongols Scholars Lack Persian Perspective
Although The Secret History of the Mongols was written 760 years ago, its “secrets” have not yet been fully revealed. Beginning in 1941, the Mongolian Research Centre for The Secret History began work uncovering facts from the epic history of 13th century Mongolia. Scholars from other nations also began exploring the book in the same year. D. Tserensodnom and B. Enkhtuvshin, Mongolian historians, say that the cultural records of the Islamic world would lend major contributions to little-understood aspects of The Secret History, specifically those of Mongol conquests in Persia.
The two academicians also claim that Mongolians generally know little about the culture of Islamic peoples. The Middle East’s historical works of the 13th century should be connected, they maintain, to those of the same time period in Mongolia. Many scholars believe that Mongolian researchers should combine forces with researchers of the Middle East. (Learning Farsi, the Persian language, is a prerequisite to such studies.) Exchange programmes for scholars from the two cultures are now widely recommended.
Book Review - by L. Collins
Wild East, by Jill Lawless
Written by the former UB Post editor, Jill Lawless, Wild East is a collection of stories and light-hearted opinion, examining the modern fabric of Mongolian life from a reporter’s perspective.
Lawless name-checks familiar people and places; thus, we read about Millie’s (a lot), The French House, and assorted ex-pats, some of whom are still ‘on the scene’. Lawless’ ex-pat friends pop up, usually as an example of how foreigners cope with the cold, mutton, and vodka drinking.
Any of the stories would be equally at home on the feature page of a woman’s magazine or in an e-mail to a friend back home. There’s that sense of trying to make a friend laugh, give them some detail, and get across the eclecticism of Mongolia in a very ‘matey’ way, which makes the book readable – easy to dip in and out of, but often just a touch arrogant.
Each chapter highlights an aspect of Mongolian life that will be familiar to those who have ventured beyond the safe confines of Millie’s and the Steppe. For the uninitiated, on a trip to the Gobi, we learn that Mongolia has no paved roads; hence, sitting inside a Russian jeep for 16 hours is equivalent to a piece of spare luggage rattling around in the hold of an aircraft.
The chapter on the rise of independent newspapers is interesting and well researched. “The January 1 deadline for privatisation came and went, and it was declared that the state-owned newspapers were now independent… But they kept on publishing, out of the same offices and on the same equipment, only they changed their names, so that Government News became the much catchier News of the Century.”
Lawless isn’t afraid to cover subjects that ‘serious’ writers on Mongolia wouldn’t touch, which shows her journalistic background and ensures that dry facts on the economy aren’t regurgitated. For example, Westerners are amazed at the way British band ‘Smokie’ are feted in Mongolia, and Lawless is no exception. [Daniel and Sun-duk’s note: a middle-aged British singer by the name of Chris Norman was heralded as the second coming of Michael Jackson last fall. Who the hell is Chris Norman???] “Smokie was accorded a level of security suitable to a visiting head of state.” The rise of two ex-pat institutions, Khanbrau and Millie’s, is charted, but I sometimes wondered exactly which audience Lawless was writing for: a tiny foreign community in Mongolia or the wider world.
The Way of the Millennium
The last governmental meeting of the year was held on December 27, 2000, and resulted in the decision to adopt a national programme to mordernise and develop science and technology over the next ten years. The government aims to attract funding from abroad to develop progressive technology and for scientific research.
The “Way of the Millennium” is a government initiative, developed by the Ministry of Infrastructure, to build roads to link western and eastern aimags to Ulaanbaatar. A total of 2700km of asphalt road will be created, and the project will require at least T150 billion. It is estimated that 50,000 jobs will be created.
The road will increase trade links with Europe and Asia.
With easier transport links, the road will increase tourism, and, the government hopes, stem the influx of people to the capital city by developing regional areas. Ulaanbaatar will no longer be the emerald city at the end of the yellow brick road.
It is a government tradition to name each new year after a sector, in order to focus attention on that sector; 2001 will be the year of national production. The year 2000 supported children’s development.
The government intends to focus on the processing of raw materials and the export of ready-made products.
Trade Unions Call for Higher Minimum Wage, Lower Utilities
In connection with the government’s recent decisions, including the increase of prices for electricity, heating and water, many federations of trade unions issued statements addressing the Mongolian Government in the last days of 2000.
”Having retreated from the ultimate goal, ‘To Alleviate the Public from Poverty’, Parliament and the Cabinet issued many decisions which touch upon several social and economic issues of the labour force. For example, the government initiated laws that raised taxes, and they have lowered the minimum wage to T18,000 a month. [The prior minimum wage was set at T24,000/month, though never implemented by the previous government towards the end of its administration. Furthermore, T18,000 is worth US$16.38 at the current exchange rate. Editor’s Note] Starting from December 15, the price for electricity was increased on average by 14.2 percent, heating by 35.7 percent, and hot water prices were raised by T400 a month, according to a statement issued on December 28 by the Federation of Trade Unions of Mongolian Health Care Workers.
The statement continues, “The Federation considers that these measures are producing negative results. They directly affect the interests of the work force and of citizens as a whole, especially physicians and medical workers, not only in state-run organisations, but in the private sector, as well. As a result, in the near future, quantity and quality of production and services will decline, the number of work places will decrease, working conditions will deteriorate, salaries and pensions will lose their value, and the unemployment and poverty rates will rise.”
By protesting the mounting pressure facing, in particular, low-paid civil servants, the Federation demands that the government abolish the utility price hikes and take strong measures for social welfare. These measures should include setting the minimum wage at no less than T25,000 a month, or by increasing salaries by 20 percent for civil servants.
The government has yet to respond to this statement.
President Bagabandi’s Visit to India Underway
Mongolian President Natsagiin Bagabandi is undertaking a five-day state visit to India from January, mainly aimed at further consolidating of bilateral ties. The visit, which is part of the ongoing high-level exchanges between the two countries, is at the invitation of President K. R. Narayanan.
In a message on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Mongolia on December 24, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the Mongolian president’s visit would “chart out the course for further intensification of our bilateral ties.” Conveying his warm greetings to President Bagabandi and the people of Mongolia, Vajpayee said “our two countries have close cultural and spiritual links which have bridged the geographical distance between us,” and added “we hope to strengthen this cooperative relationship further.”
External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said President Bagabandi will be “our first honoured guest in the new millennium.”
The Mongolian ambassador Oidov Nyamdavaa has invited Indian enterprises to make investments in Mongolia, where state-owned enterprises are being privatized and the country is moving towards a free-market economy on December 27.
According to a PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) press release, India has been identified for taking part in developing Mongolia’s infrastructure, which includes construction of airports and roads. Other areas identified for joint collaboration are mineral resources, the processing industry, information technology, communications, agro, food and wood processing, and mini hydropower stations. Mongolia also offers special opportunities to India in the development of tourism, including setting up of hotels and hotel services.
Indian investors would be allowed to purchase privately owned buildings, acquire lease rights to land and ownership rights for all constructions on the land, including buildings, factories, warehouses and other structures. Visa and Residency Permit rules have been liberalised.
During his visit, a joint information technology working group was set up that would be a priority area of bilateral cooperation in the new century.
Speaking at a luncheon meeting in Bangalore on Tuesday, he said a Memorandum of Understanding would be signed in this regard between Ministry of Infrastructure Development of Mongolia and India Ministry of Information Technology during his visit to Delhi.
The MOU, he hoped, would “become a real start of the bilateral cooperation in the field of information technology.”
Bagabandi, who began his visit to India on Monday, also proposed promoting bilateral relations between the two countries in new fields, particularly tourism, environmental protection, banking, finance and security markets.
Bilateral cooperation should be promoted in more promising areas like software designing for the third market, enlargement of internet facilities and dissemination of information in remote rural areas through the internet, he said.
He stressed, however, “cooperation in the field of information technology in the forthcoming century would be a priority area of Mongolian-Indian relations.”
Noting that India’s assistance towards Mongolia’s regional development would be significant, he suggested that cooperation between them could be developed not only at a bilateral, but also a regional level.
Joint participation in a major regional project could be a ‘rewarding form of cooperation’, Bagabandi, who was accompanied by Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Erdenechuluun, and Minister of Industry of Commerce, Ch. Ganzong, and a business delegation, said.
On Wednesday, India and Mongolia signed six agreements, including one on cooperation in defence matters, even as Ulaanbaatar supported New Delhi’s candidature in the expanded United Nations Security Council.
The agreements were signed in the presence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and visiting Mongolian President Natsagiin Bagabandi.
India and Mongolia have long-standing bilateral ties that are bonded with Buddhist culture. According to foreign spokesmen, Mr. Bagabandi had a closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, where matters pertaining to regional and international issues were discussed.
The two sides underscored the serious threat posed by international terrorism, which has assumed even more menacing dimensions following its linkage with religious fundamentalism. According to the joint declaration, both countries condemned terrorism in all its forms, irrespective of whatever consideration that is invoked to justify it.
Political Alliance May Be the Key to the Presidency
The Civil Will Party, the Mongolian Democratic New Socialist Party, and the Mongolian Republican Party are undecided on whether to unite as one party for the upcoming presidential elections being held this July. Ms. S. Oyun, Member of Parliament and head of the Civil Will Party, said, “We discussed the idea with the parties that participated in the last parliamentary election as a coalition force, which did not include the three parties now considering combining forces.”
The Civil Will Party’s congress will be held February 11. There, the party will debate how to tackle the forthcoming election.
PM and Foreign Minister Leave for 9-Day European Visit
On January 21, Prime Minister Enkhbayar and Minister of Environment S. Batbold left for Luxemburg to pay an official visit. N. Enkhbayar met with Javier Solana, General Secretary of the European Council, L.D. Robertson, General Secretary of NATO, and Jan Cloud Johnker, Prime Minister of Luxemburg.
Starting today, Mr. Enkhbayar and Mr. Batbold will take part in the World Economic Forum’s “Sustaining Growth and Bridging the Divide: A Framework for Our Global Future” 31st annual meeting, held from January 25-30 in Davos, Switzerland. The theme reflects the forum’s desire to promote discussions about the direction of the global economy and its interest in exploring new ways to bridge the many gaps between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. As in years past, top business leaders, representing the World Economic Forum’s 1,000-member companies, will be joined by government leaders and representatives of civil society for discussions about key economic, political, social, and environmental issues facing the world in the months and years to come.
During the annual meeting, the Mongolian prime minister will meet the leadership of the International Currency Fund, the World Bank, and representatives of several nations, and will talk on Mongolian society, its economic situation, and joint-nation activity.
The World Forum meeting has been held every year since 1970. This year marks the fourth consecutive visit by a Mongolian prime minister.
Insurance for Cattle
In 1963, livestock insurance was introduced to Mongolia, when the Council of Ministers, ruled to make livestock insurance of agricultural cooperatives mandatory.
The last ten years prove how important it is to have livestock insurance for herders to protect from hazardous losses. In the last 54 years, 36 years suffered from unfavourable conditions, 11 were normal, and only 7 years were favourable.
Individual herders have been reluctant to insure animals recently. They reason that livestock insurance is, and should remain, voluntary. Secondly, a 3-6 percent insurance fee is deemed too high, and, also, some companies are reluctant to insure livestock because of the comparative likelihood of having to pay out.
Economist Ch. Namsrai proposes the following measures:
Make livestock insurance obligatory, and cover all animals, to minimise the risk.
Livestock insurance should be taken out at the time of the annual animal census.
A minimal insurance fee should be established.
Given the shortage of hard cash among herders, insurers should allow fees to be paid partly or completely with animals, wool, cashmere, and other animal products.
To encourage the improvement of pedigree, the government may cover the insurance fee of selected breeds.
Insurance should cover 100% of losses caused by natural disaster, but only 70% of losses caused by the dzud, given the individual responsibility of herders.
ADB Funding for Mongolia
The Asian Development Bank has decided to double its assistance and aid to Mongolia in 2001-2002. The ADB has agreed to give $80 million to Mongolia to complete unfinished projects; $15 million shall be given for the education sector; $10 million for local development; $20 million for constructing apartments; and $12 million for social welfare. All are soft loans.
Also, the ADB is to give $4.6 million as technical assistance to Mongolia. These loans are due to be repaid in 20-30 years, and interest rates are low.
The Darkhan meat plant was set up in 1974 with technical and economic assistance from Hungary. It’s expected production capacity was 15,000 tonnes of meat a year, writes R. Davaanyam, executive director of the Darkhan Makh Expo Company, in an article published in Zuuny Medee.
The plant stood idle between 1997-1998, and recommenced operations in 2000 because of Russia’s growing interest in importing Mongolian meat.
The company exports 100% of its meat products. In 1999, it exported 4000 tonnes of meat products. Today, this figure caps 5000 tonnes. Over 20 varieties of meat and meat by-products are produced and exported to the Russian and Chinese markets.
Heads and hooves are not exported, but used in Mongolia.
Next year, the company intends to produce 5000 tonnes of meat from cattle, and the same figure again for meat from goats and sheep. Agreements have been signed with companies in Kazakstan to export 6000 tonnes of meat. The capacity to slaughter large cattle (cows, horses, and camels) has increased twofold, and 350-400 animals are slaughtered on a daily basis.
They also produce 30 tonnes of sausages a year for the domestic market.
Talks are underway with a Japanese company to produce pet food from horsemeat and export to Western countries. Research is being undertaken with Russian companies to produce canned meat for export to Russia.
Bread Prices Go Up Due to Energy Rate Hikes
”Atar-Urguu”, “Uguuj” and “Bread and Confectionary” companies have raised prices on bread and pastry products made in domestic factories. A loaf of bread’s wholesale price is now between T240-250, seeing an increase of T13-23.
The reason behind these price hikes has been attributed to the energy and heating cost increases ordered by the Energy Authority on December 15, 2000 – heat rates went up by 35%, electricity rates by 14% - and to the raising of the value-added tax by 13%-15%.
”Altan Taria” flour mill has also changed its prices. One kilo of flour is more expensive by two percent, now at T243.8-345. An official at the mill specified that higher prices are not due to product costs, but rather to the value-added tax boost.
An Interview with Businessman 2000
A man who started a small trade business in the late 1980s and early 1990s is now Businessman 2000 of Mongolia. G. Myanganbayar is the director of Mongol Gazar Company, which operates businesses such as gold mining, tourism and hotels.
”I continued in small business until 1992,” Myanganbayar, graduate of Russia’s Dubna Nuclear Physics Institute – proud of his profession, but sorry for the unavailability of work in the field – told Ts. Amaraa, reporter for Odriin Sonin newspaper. He founded “Gazar” in 1992, and the following year, he bought a hotel. Next, he collaborated with Japanese company Nasabe and founded the Nasabe International Tourism Corporation. The Flower Hotel, ot the east of Ulaanbaatar, is the result of the corporation. In 1994, Myanganbayar discovered new profits in gold mining.
Does your trained profession help you with mining>
Yes, it does. Particularly on the technological side.
I heard that you were in a difficult situation and gold helped you financially. How risky is the sector?
I think you are talking about the period of 1995-1996. Then we were working in Khentii aimag. It became clear that profits would respond slowly because prospecting was not complete. So another site was chosen. We’ve experienced the same conditions as any other gold miner.
There is no business without risk, especially in the mining industry. It needs much investment and takes a long time and a lot of searching. But the sector is prosperous for Mongolia.
Which other sectors do you think could be prosperous?
Agriculture, chemical/biotech, or software industries could be developed.
Your company has mined two tons of gold. Is that a big figure?
It si a big number in Mongolia, but not at the world level. In Mongolia, a company is able to mine 3-30 tons of gold. We are aiming at this figure, even though we are number one today.
Have you ever avoided taxation?
Taxes are a duty for everyone. I have had occasions of delaying payments, but not of avoiding them.
How reliable are Mongolians in business?
That depends on the individual. As you know, the market economy is itself new to us. No one had any idea about the system. Nobody had money and nobody had experience living in the system. But we are fortunate because we are living in this interesting time…
As for reliability, no business can be run without it. A businessman, in particular, has to be ethical. It is then that you will earn money.
Don’t you think the nature of being ethical and making money are contradictory?
That again depends on how the individual sees it. As for me, it is a kind of tool for communication. In Japan, people think of money as a spirit, because it has special powers.
Do you ever remember an occasion of wonderment at the amount of money you had in your hands?
In 1992, I was holding $200,000 in my hands. Then the impression came to me. I felt how much money it truly was.
Is it much now?
Not that much.
The rich are listed by their income in the West. How much is your income?
We are different from them. Don’t compare us with them.
Your recent image is portrayed as a sponsor of the Arts. You sponsored Camerton’s new CD with T70 million and spent another T50 million for Goyol [fashion show]. Is it a way to increase your ratings? Do you profit from it?
First, I have no business ideas [there]. I just want to support youth. Show business is not my business. Second, Camerton is my favourite band. The guys are professional. So they should make steps into the Asian music market.
Do people come to you for money?
Many come, but I don’t have anything extra to give them.
Fibre Optics Connect Mongolia with the World
On December 26, an opening ceremony was held for the newly installed fibre optic cable running from Ereen, China to Zamiin-Uud, Mongolia. At the ceremony, deputy head of the Mongolian Railway Authority, V. Otgondemberel, said that the installation of the cable was essential for the nation. It is not an issue of connecting two cities, he said, as much as it is one of connecting two countries. Furthermore, it is a bridge that joins Mongolia with the world. Not only will Mongolia be able to rapidly communicate via satellite, it will now do so by land as well. The cable installation work was done by railway workers of Zamiin-Uud and Ereen in a short period of time and in a qualified manner, Mr. Otgondemberel reported.
G. Sereenen, general engineer of the Mongolian Railway Authority, said, “In 1992, according to an agreement made by the governments of Mongolia and Japan, the Mongolian Railway Authority received a soft loan of US$70 million, $18 million of which was used for the installation of the cable. The installation work started on February 4, 1999 at Tolgoit rail station, becoming user-ready on April 26, 2000. We finished our installation work with the cable connecting Zamiin-Uud with Ereen.
”The Japanese side is impressed with the work we have done since Mongolians dug 1,402km of land from the northern border to the southern border and finished installing the cable in just 14 months.”
Preliminary Livestock Census Results
The National Statistics Office reported that as of Tuesday, January 2, Mongolia contains 30,096,400 head of livestock. This figure represents a 10.3% decrease from 1999, or 3,472,500 fewer farm animals. Throughout the country, the number of camels has dropped by 33,000, horses by 514,000, cattle by 737,000, goats by 803,100, and sheep by 1,384,700 as compared with last year’s statistics.
Though overall populations have decreased, some aimags have seen increases in numbers, including Orkhon, Khentii, Dornod, Darkhan, Selenge, and Sukhbaatar. Increases in these provincial areas range from 4,600 to 41,700 animals.
Dundgov, Overkhangai, Zavkhan and Uvs, being the most severely dzud-affected aimags, saw lower numbers compared to 1999 by 315,700 - 822,500 livestock.
”The country’s agricultural sector, including hunting and logging, accounts for 36.1% of the GDP. It is certain that the decrease in populations of the country’s livestock by 3.5 million will impact the national economy, but it is now too early to say how much it will influence it, because the [year-end] results of other business sectors have not yet been released,” states Ms. B. Badamtsetseg, head of the Business Statistics Division of the National Statistics Office.
”The reason for the decrease in livestock numbers is directly connected with the loss of about 3 million animals last year due to dzud conditions in certain aimags.
”There were no difficulties counting livestock. Our citizens are accustomed to the process. We can guarantee that the census was held correctly without misrepresentation. The final results of the census will show numbers of other domesticated animals, corrals, wells, and groups working in animal husbandry,” she explained.
According to Ms. Badamtsetseg, local administrations will issue census results on January 20 to the National Statistics Office, the final results of the census being released at the beginning of February.
Hyundai President Concludes Trip to Mongolia
Kim Jun-mun, president of Hyundai Motors Company, paid a one-day visit to Mongolia last week by invitation of the mayor of Ulaanbaatar, M. Enkhbold, returning Sunday to South Korea. It was his second trip to Mongolia.
He was received by Mongolian President N. Bagabandi and Prime Minister N. Enkhbayar. […] [T]he Mongolian president made requests that South Korea pay serious attention to the protection of Mongolians who are living and working in that nation: to provide them with jobs and to assist them in becoming professional workers.
Kim Jun-mun states, “[…] We have increased the number of dealers and service stations in Mongolia in order to become a reliable partner company with our customers. There are 12,000 Mongolian people currently living and working in South Korea. We will do our best to improve their working conditions and use of high technology.”
During his visit, the president of the eighth largest car manufacturer in the world became an honorary doctor at the Mongolian National University.
The city of Ulaanbaatar reached agreements with Hyundai to improve service stations, to advertise around the city, and to collaborate for public transportation needs. The police department will buy 12 Hyundai-made cars, at a reduced price, made especially for Mongolian road conditions. The usual price of $10,000 per automobile will be cut to $4,800 each.
Interest-Bearing Certificates Mean No-Risk Investment
Bonds are official certificates binding a government or company to repay money that it has borrowed with interest from the bond buyer. They are usually issued to cover losses or debts from an internal source or to back financial policy when a budget income is inadequate. In other words, government bonds are a way of borrowing money from citizens.
Bonds are often used in other countries to satisfy temporary needs in the budget and to cover losses. For example, in Japan, government bonds occupy 70-74 percent of stock market trading.
Currently, government bonds are being sold at the Mongolian Stock Exchange (MSE). The government is one of the most reliable partners for investment. It always pays off, since the government, unlike companies, never goes bankrupt. Also, taxes are not imposed on government bonds. Furthermore, a buyer can cash them in before the term and be reimbursed in full, though without the accrued interest.
In 1999, the State issued bonds worth 24.54 billion tugriks, the average monthly interest rate being 1.6 percent. Bonds issued from 1997 to 1999 filled 30 percent of state budget gaps during those years.
Since November 16, 2000, the Mongolian government has issued bonds worth 12.3 billion tugriks, of which approximately five billion tugriks, or roughly 40%, have been repaid to bond holders. These bonds come in 60-, 90-, and 120-day terms, with interest rates being generally higher than a basic savings account’s interest rate offered at a bank. A savings account of longer than six months in Mongolian banks usually offer a 1.2 percent interest rate. While sixty-day bonds have a lower rate of 1.14%, their reimbursement time is shorter than a long-term savings account. The ninety-day and 120-day bonds have 1.23% and 1.36% interest rates, respectively.
Government bonds issued to individuals come in 10,000-tugrik denomination; bonds for businesses are issued in 100,000-tugrik denominations. Both types of bonds are available at the Mongolian Stock Exchange or through a local brokerage firm.
During the year 2001, the government will issue 40 billion tugriks’ worth of bonds.
bonds allow for a reduction in inflation, putting cash money into circulation.
S. Tsetsegmaa, senior officer of the Trade and Information Research Department of MSE, said, “Buying bonds can be profitable for people. This Wednesday [January 24], a trade of 2.5 billion tugriks’ worth of bonds will be sold to businesses, and this coming Friday [January 26], bonds worth 50 billion tugriks will be sold to individuals at the stock exchange.”
Mongolian herdsmen pay livestock taxes based upon the number of sheep they own. Though horses, camels, and cows may pooh-pooh such measures, each of the three livestock, so predominant in Mongolia, will be recorded as being equal to five sheep for taxation purposes. One goat counts as one-and-a-half sheep.
Herders who lie in Darkhan-Uul, Orkhon, Selenge, and Tov aimags, and inside the municipality of Ulaanbaatar, will pay 100 tugriks, equal to approximately nine American cents, for each sheep they own. Residents of Arkhangai, Bayankhongor, Bulgan, Dornod, Dornogobi, Dundgobi, Gobi-Sumber, Khentii, Khovsgol, Omnogobi, Ovorkhangai, and Sukhbaatar aimags will pay 75 tugriks per head of sheep. Bayan-Olgii, Gobi-Altai, Khovd, Uvs, and Zavkhan aimag citizens pay only 50 tugriks each.
Livestock tax deadlines are July 15 and December 15 of each year.
Canadian Dollar - Mongolian Tugrik Exchange Rate: CAD$1 = T730.33
Briton Andy Smith and Australian Graham Taylor attempted to be the first mountaineers to climb 4,374m Mt. Khuiten (“Cold Mountain”) in wintertime, over the New Year. Khuiten has never been climbed before in winter, when January temperatures can drop to –40 Celsius.
A meeting of shamans from Buryatia, Mongolia, and Tuva has resulted in the setting-up of the Union of Asian Shamans. A forum will take place in Ulaanbaatar in the summer.
There are forty-four centenarians in Mongolia. The oldest is 109-year-old N. Bayart, of Overkhangai aimag’s Ulzitt soum. Another Ovorkhangai resident, V. Dolgor, is 107 years old. The practically youthful S. Dulam, 105 years old, is from Dundgobi aimag.
The Japanese company Mitsubishi has shown an interest in privatising the Gobi Cashmere Company. The State Property Committee has received the company’s proposal to participate in an international tender for Gobi. Privatisation of Gobi and other state-owned enterprises will take place between 2001 and 2004.
Belgium intends to reject visas given to Mongolians entering the country, due to the increasing number of Mongolians who have applied for residency (their requests have been refused). Belgium believes that Mongolians have no political reasons to seek refuge and will deport those Mongolians who refuse to leave the country after three warnings.
Representatives from the Movement of Social-Democratic Women (MSDW), the Mongolian Democratic Party (MNDP), and the Mongolian Democratic Party (MDP) have established the Union of Democratic Women (UDW). Ex-leader of MSDW, M. Tungalag, has been elected as the Union Chairman, while the ex-leader of the MNDP’s Women’s Council, Ts. Bayarmaa and ex-member of MDP’s National Council, Ch. Kulanda, have been elected as her deputies.
Japan will donate $18,870 in aid to the Kind Women’s Union for buying teaching equipment. The aid is from a Japanese government project, “Grassroots”, which provides aid mainly to the educational and health sectors.
A total of 33,000 head of livestock have died in Khovsgol aimag due to harsh winter conditions. A total of 18,000 have died in Tov aimag, and 16,3000 in Arkhangai aimag.
A total of fifty falcons were exported this year under the Mongolian-Kuwaiti agreement. The Kuwaitis paid $2,250 and $210 in tax per bird.
According to the Botany Institute’s G. Magsar, cannabis plants are growing in Selenge and Dornogobi aimags.
The government spent T20 million on New Year’s Eve / New Millennium festivities. Most of the events were focused upon Ulaanbaatar’s Sukhbaatar Square. At the stroke of midnight, President Bagabandi addressed the nation in a television broadcast.
The Ministry of the Environment will allow 645,000 cubic metres of wood to be taken from forests this year. 603,000 cubic metres will be used for firewood, and 41,500 cubic metres for ‘miscellaneous purposes’. A survey of forest reserves will be conducted over 800,000 ha of land in 2001.
Mongolian Telecom has reduced its prices for international phone calls by 7% to 11%, from December 25. A one-minute call to the USA, Canada, or Singapore was $1.70, but has been reduced to $1.20.
The government has sold T6 billion worth of bonds in order to pay rural government employees salaries and their health and social insurance allowance. Commercial banks and companies were the main purchasers.
Trade turnover until November 2000 equalled $922.7 million, of which export was $407 million, and import was $515.7 million. The external trade balance was $108.7 million in deficit.
The Bayarsaikhan family, on December 30, won one million tugriks from the TV game show, “Lucky Subscribers”. The trivia show hosts contestants who are subscribers of Onoodor newspaper. After winning the money, the Bayarsaikhans contributed half of the amount back to Onoodor newspaper!
Over 151 crimes were reported at the Police Department of Ulaanbaatar between December 28, 2000 and January 1, 2001. During this period, 580 policement worked the beat around the capital. The police department maintains that 88.5% of the 151 crimes were investigated within a few hours of being reported. Patrolmen confiscated over 514 knives and other weapons over the holidays, and 764 revellers were reported to have spent at least one night in the drunk tank.
T. Daariijav, first mother of the year, gave birth to a baby girl at 12:00 in the morning, New Year’s Day. The baby weight 3.7kg (8 pounds, 2 ounces). It was Ms. Daariijav’s first birth. The second mother of 2001, D. Dudegee, gave birth to a baby boy. In the first three days of the new year, 53 mothers gave birth in Mongolia: 29 girls and 24 boys were born.
An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale struck Bayan-Olgii aimag at 10 p.m. on January 7, 80 km north of Olgii, the capital of the aimag.
Representatives from religious groups in Mongolia gathered at the Chinggis Khaan Hotel in Ulaanbaatar on January 13. Delegates representing Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Bahaists attended the meeting to deliver speeches on public education.
Selenge aimag’s administration office has asked for help from Canadian organisation ADRA. 654,000 livestock belonging to 10,400 herder families in Selenge aimag are spending the winter in zud conditions. One thousand tonnes of hay, 500 tonnes of fertiliser, 600 tonnes of fodder, and medicines for livestock are needed for the herders. 1,851 poor families do not have sufficient flour, rice, sugar, vegetable oil and warm clothes.
Snowfall in Uvs aimag measures from 25 to 140 cm, reports the aimag’s emergency commission. A total of 9,592 people from 2,370 families and 735,900 head of livestock are spending the winter in soums. The Aimag Emergency Commission has delivered 6,900 bales of hay and 50 tonnes of fodder to herders in ten soums. The aimag also has a shortage of petrol.
An agricultural ‘garden’ is to be established in Jargalant Village, on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. Food and Agriculture Minister D. Nasanjargal has made an agreement with South Korean company East Asia International to implement a project called ‘Mongol 2000’. During the first three years of operations, a greenhouse and plants to process milk and meat will be built. An agricultural training and research centre is also planned within the next four years. East Asia International will provide funding of $9 million to construct the agricultural centre.
The first meeting of the Mongolian-South Korean Business Council took place on January 9 at the Seoul Restaurant in Ulaanbaatar. The council has been established to promote cooperation between businesses from Mongolia and South Korea. Over forty companies, including Bodi International, Golomt Bank, Zag, Skytel, Samsung, MSC Holding, Hyundai, Kia Motors, and Korea Telecom have joined the council. Bodi International Company Director M. Zorigt has been elected Chairman of the Council.
Philatelist U. Sereeter has won the gold medal for his History of Mongolian Post Stamps collection from the International Philately Exhibition in Beijing. G. Lovor won a bronze medal for his Rare Birds Collection, and young philatelist B. Binderya also won a bronze medal for his Domesticated Animals Collection.
The Training and Information Centre of the Liberal Women’s Intellectual Fund, together with a German development agency, have introduced a mobile library and training centre to three aimags. Aimag residents will receive free training.
Domestic consumption in 2000 saw 46,149 fish, 44,060 marmots, 281 voars, 302 gazelles, and 1,102 birds being hunted for domestic consumption.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has set a limit on the amount of foodstuffs individuals can import. An individual is permitted to import up to 5kg of frozen or tinned meat, up to 30 fresh eggs, 2kg of milk-based dairy products, and 2kg of butter and cheese. The ruling became effective on January 1.
Thirteenth-century Mongols used to make quivers or bow-and-arrow cases with birch bark and hides. Birch bark is cold and water-proof, and quivers were decorated with drawings of animals.
Pop group Chinggis Khaan are currently performing in Seoul, South Korea, for the benefit of Mongolians living there.
Internet service provider Datacom celebrated its fifth birthday on January 17.
Journalist R. Sanduijav has written an open letter to the government, in which he proposes the idea that the national anthem be changed, as “the anthem, which is imbued with old ideas, no longer serves the new democratic Mongolia.” The national anthem was composed by B. Damdinsuren and L. Murdorj, and the lyrics were written by Ts. Damdinsuren. Paragraphs upholding communist ideas have now been deleted. Sanduijav says that the anthem can only stand the test of time if it symbolises freedom and independence.
Chinggis Does It Again
Russian “RIA-Novosti” information agency has recently named the most influential people and events of the past millennium. The 1000-year chart is headed by none other than Chinggis Khaan (1155-1227) of the Mongolian Empire. Under his influence, Mongolian nomadic tribes conquered vast territories stretching from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean. The runner-up was Mongolian king Timurlane Khaan. Legs trembled when anyone heard his name in Central Asia, India, Iran and the Caucasus. America’s Washington Post newspaper also named Chinggis Khaan “Man of the Millennium” in 1999.
Murder in Maikhant Reveals Foul Play and Growing Problem
During the night of December 27, in Maikhant soum, Darkhan-Uul aimag, a fire broke out in a local resident’s ger. When the Fire Department arrived on the scene, they found the headless body of an unidentified man in the centre of the blaze. The murder is currently under police investigation.
As this gruesome killing occurs just under the wire of 2000, some statistics merit attention. In the past year, the Mongolian Police Department was ineffectual in attempts to locate culprits in 31 slayings. This represents the worst record for the Police Department in its history. Year 2000 saw figures fall to 85% from the department’s normal 90% success rate in murder investigations.
An Interview with Mongolia’s Oldest Man
He is 108 years old. He is D. Gundendarjaa, Mongolia’s oldest citizen. Mr. Gundendarjaa resides with his daughter G. Ayurzana, son-in-law Khaltar – both 68 years old – and niece in Khan-Uul district, Ulaanbaatar. He was interviewed by A. Tuvshintuya, correspondent for Onoodor newspaper.
Where are you from? Tell me about your parents.
I was born in Bayandalai soum of Omnogov aimag. My father Damchaa was a herdsman.
You have seen a whole century and have entered the new millennium. You must have seen many things in your life. What have you done in your lifetime?
People are stupid when they are very young. At the age of five, I went to the monastery and became a monk. I used to study and memorise books. As I grew older, the stricter monks were beginning to teach me more books, and I had to memorise them, also. When the time became hard for the monks, I became a “black” [a citizen who is no longer a monk] for a while. At that time, I became a herdsman and I used to gather fruits and nuts to sell them. And when things became better, I returned to Gandan Monastery for further study.
Do you have many descendants?
Yes. It is hard to count them all. I have hundreds of them. [His daughter Ayurzana added that there are more than 500 of his descendants living in Ulaanbaatar and in Selenge and Omnogov aimags.]
It must be hard for you during the Asian New Year. Since you have that many offspring and are the oldest citizen of Mongolia, many people must come to see you.
It is not that hard. I don’t have to do much. Since I have many grandchildren, they prepare everything. I simply do the eating and the sitting.
Is there any other person in your family who has lived as long as you?
Yes. Both of my parents died at the age of 90. I have a younger brother who is 98.
People say that proper nutrition is essential for a long life. What do you eat?
I like to eat noodles. When I was young, I often used to eat dairy products and used to get up very early in the mornings. When I grew older, I began eating meals with flour.
What kind of songs do you like?
I like to sing “long songs”. When I was younger, people used to invite me to many places to hear my songs.
Can you sing for me?
[He sang “Air of the Sky” beautifully.]
What do you think of things nowadays?
I wish that people were not getting hungry and were not cold.
The Year of the Dragon was a harsh year for Mongolians with its dzud and drought. What do you think the Year of the Snake will be like?
The Year of the Snake will be a good year. There haven’t been any harsh snake years before. Dzuds usually happen in the Year of the Dragon.
You have nice teeth. Are those your natural teeth?
A few years ago, when the President of Mongolia asked me about them, I answered that they were property of the State. [He laughs.]
Specialised Therapists Can Combat Sexual Crimes
It is a national tragedy that this country is without behavioural or sexual therapists. In the communist era, there was a comparatively strong social and ethical fabric, where lifestyles were generally prescribed by the State. Propaganda and all forms fo the media reinforced these morally upright ways of life. In spite of these measures, Mongolians remained promiscuous and often criminal – having affairs, taking prostitutes, and committing rape. These sexual behaviours, therefore, are not in the State’s domain to control. The reasons and conditions for these behavioural problems arise in the family and in marital relations. If these relationships are neglected, this type of behaviour will continue to have negative effects on future generations and society as a whole.
If a void of knowledge persists, it then becomes the duty of institutions such as the media to take on educating the public. Many newspapers that were targeting younger generations with sexual material have been shut down. This is an appropriate measure. These forms of media cater to abnormal behaviour.
Hiring prostitutes indicates a rift in healthy sexual relations between husband and wife. At all levels of Mongolian society, either rich or poor, struggles exist in family relationships.
In Mongolia, there are not many organisations or therapists which can offer advice to the people who are dealing with sexual and psychological deviation. Although the “Center Against Violence”, “Mongolian Society for Family Happiness”, and “Mongolian Federation for World Peace and Solidarity” are included in approximately 20 non-governmental organisations and projects offering advice on family and sexual problems, they are not mutually related in method. Mongolians need specialised doctors and therapists.
Violent crimes are a product of maladjustment. Many criminals are at large who commit sexual crimes. Some are recidivists. Specialised psychologists and sexologists are needed to investate these criminals and help protect others from them. Instead of spending funds on trials and imprisonment, Mongolia must invest in treatments for these people in order to reintroduce them to society. It is much more effective and cheaper than imprisonment.
Mongolia’s one sexologist died a few weeks ago. The need is there for qualified doctors. The Mongolian government should take a right and strong step against promiscuous and criminal sexual behaviour.
The Adventures and Studies of a National Traveller
Many men roam the world looking for adventure. Other men find it at home. One of the ‘domesticated’ types is Gotovyn Chadalbat, Mongolian traveller. If you think staying at home is boring, think again.
From 1993 to 1995, Chadalbat traversed by foot and by ski Mongolia’s not so short border. Between 1995 and 1997, he made it to all 21 aimag capitals. And from 1997 to 2000, the 39-year-old native of Khovsgol trekked to 290 soums (towns) throughout the nation, regardless of the season.
”Although I travel without sponsorship, I have never been faced with material shortages. Mongolians are a very hospitable people. Everywhere, in all corners of the country, I found generous people who provided me with meals and other necessities without asking for payment.”
Since being arrested in 1997 by Russian border guards (confiscating his Makarov pistol, binoculars, and camera), Chadalbat began keeping chronicles of his experiences. During these long travels, he has recorded some harrowing adventures – arrests, pursuits by wolves, being lost in the wild. He explains:
”I have been arrested 10 times: twice by Russian border guards, twice by Mongolian border guards, and six times by Mongolian police. I’ve lost my way 16 times. I’ve saved three people from drowning, and one from a fire. Eight dogs have bitten me, and three camels have chased me away.”
Chadalbat’s travels include not only high adventure, but research as well. A geographic study of Mongolia by region, defining the habitats of endangered animals, and the study of regional ethnic populations are a part of his itinerary on the road or tral.
According to his research, geographically, Mongolia is divided into six regions.
He has shown that from 1980-2000, the mazaalai, or Gobi bear,, has been inhabiting the Shirenge Mountains in the Gobi-Altai. In 1960, the bear inhabited the northern Gobi side of Mongol Altai Mountain; in 1970, it lived in the southern Gobi of Mongol Altai Mountain.
Chadalbat supports the view that the Darkhads, a small ethnic group living in Bayanzurkh, Ulaan-Uul, and Renchinlkhumbe of Khovsgol aimag are of the same origin with the Bayads of Tes, Zuungobi, and Naranbulag Khyargas of Uvs aimag, according to their facial structure and language.
As the travelling researcher passed through every reach of the country, he witnessed people’s relationship with nature and the environment. Chadalbat notes that now, he worries most about manipulations of the environment.
”Our country is rich in a variety of animals, and I am proud of that fact. However, due to humans, some species are on the verge of extinction.
”Rare white swans live in Mongolia, Even in winter, the swans remain. Twenty to thirty-five swans live in a valley at Dorgon Lake in the wintertime. Whether or not the swans are more numerous than other birds, such as snow cocks, pelicans, and thrush nightingales, the swan’s population has diminished because of hunting. Hunters sell swan feathers to China,” he laments.
Chadalbat says that due to new settlements around Altantsogts and Bayannuur soums, Bayan-Olgii, fish populations in the Khovd River have decreased, and that wild pigs in the thickets along the river banks, suffering from food shortages, are harming local herders’ subsistence. A vicious circle has ensued: “the pigs now have to kill livestock to survive, and, in turn, herders are protecting their animals by burning aspen and willow trees in the woods to chase away the boars.”
Not only did Chadalbat see the effects that innocent, human-related events had on nature; he witnessed the unethical and the inhumane. “In 1997, I found 12 legs or the remains of three Khulan [the rare onager or wild ass of the Asiatic steppe] around Khanbogd, Omnogov aimag. Only people with fast cars and modern guns could do what they did. In November 2000, in Enkh Tal soum, Selenge aimag, fishermen on three boats set off explosives in Orkhon River for killing and stunning fish.
”Chinese-Mongolian relations expanded in the ‘90s, and illegal activities resulted, in part, because of easier access. Deer in Bogd, Khentii, and Khovsgol Mountains have become subject to aggressive hunting, where smugglers are selling deer antlers and organs highly valued in China. In 1998, 120 deer were killed in the Bogd Khan Mountains, and in areas of Ruv aimag. Many deer were also killed in the bulnai Mountains [in Bulgan aimag] in 1996. This behaviour causes an ecological imbalance.”
Chadalbat believes that such illegal activities are due to unemployment caused mostly by the underdevelopment of national industry. “Because of poor industrial development, raw products of animal husbandry are exported to China. Mongolians have become customers, not manufacturers.”
What Is the ‘Zud’?
Mongolians have three names for the disastrous wintertime conditions. White Zud indicates that snowfall is too deep for livestock to graze; Iron Zud indicates an impenetrable layer of ice covering the ground, preventing livestock from grazing; and Black Zud indicates lack of snowfall in pastureland, which leaves livestock without any frozen water supplies.
A new term has recently been coined, Multiple Zud, which refers to any of the above zud variations in combination with a drought during the preceding season.
Mongolian herders experienced the Multiple Zud in 2000, resulting in the deaths of 2.4 million livestock. Herders are again experiencing zud conditions this year. So far, 504,000 livestock have died in zud-stricken areas, and officials from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture are certain that this number will increase.
Mid-January Update on 2001 Zud
[…] Overall, this winter’s conditions are harsher than those of 1999-2000. […] Seventeen out of twenty-one aimags are in zud conditions presently.
[…] The animal death toll has reached half-a-million. Cattle make up the majority of losses of animal life, with starvation as the cause of death. Pastureland and fodder reserves are non-existent in some areas. Livestock freezing to death inside their corrals at night is a recent tragedy in Sukhbaatar and Zavkhan aimags. Many animals are suffering from frostbitten limbs in the sub-sub-zero temperatures.
Snow covered the entire country with a thickness of 0.15-1.5 metres. With more snow falling on top of frozen layers, herds are unable to graze. Moreover, relief aid is not reaching affected areas because roads are also buried beneath the snow. Trucks transporting diesel fuel to Zavkhan aimag and trucks coming out to meet them from the aimag’s centre are getting stuck in the snow and are missing each other in the poor visibility.
Temperatures are sharply dropping. Night-time air is now as low as –40 to –45 degrees Celsius in many areas. The lowest recorded temperature so far this year was –50 C in Tosontsengel, Zavkhan aimag, in western Mongolia.
Air temperature is not the only problem, according to Z. Batjargal, chief of the Environmental Monitoring Office of the Meteorology Institute. “The problem is the wind chill factor. Even winds of only five metres per second burden the livestock,” he said.
Despite the fact that weather changes are unpredictable in the country, herders have no options or access to reliable broadcasting for information about such changes. Television is generally not available in a nomadic home, and newspapers, needless to say, do not deliver there. The only possible means is through radio, but only 60% of herder families own a portable. Batteries are also a problem.
The government’s recent attempt to supply herders with pocket radios, to inform them of forecast warnings, failed. It is an impossible scheme with Mongolian central radio broadcasting equipment being too antiquated to transmit signals to remote regions, being designed in the 1960s. At the current stage, the government cannot afford the approximately $5 million needed to modernise the system.
Human health care is another big issue. Remote soums are in need of doctors. Physicians are commissioned to work in needy places presently, a Health Ministry official reported. Furthermore, 28 soums are without ambulances.
Nine People Killed in Helicopter Crash in Uvs Aimag
A United Nations Mission to Assess Disaster Relief in Uvs Aimag Ends in Tragedy as Helicopter Crashes and Burns into Flames – by L. Collins and B. Indra
A Russian-built MI-8 JU1025 helicopter carrying 23 passengers crashed at 11:30 a.m. on January 14, in Malchin soum, Uvs aimag, killing nine people. The MIAT helicopter had left Ulaanbaatar on January 12, carrying a team of five United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team members, Mongolian officials and members of the press.
The UNDAC team were undertaking a special mission to assess the disaster situation in Uvs and Zavkhan aimags, prior to a planned visit on January 16 by the UN’s Humanitarian Relief Coordinator, Carolyn McAskie. McAskie arrived a day earlier to oversee the crash investigation.
The helicopter was cruising at a height of ten metres while trying to land near a herder’s tent in Khairkhany Am, near Bayankhairkhan Mountain, before dropping to the ground and bursting into flames.
The UN delegation of five was made up of two in-country team members and three international staff. Four UN delegates were killed in the crash.
The nine people who lost their lives in the crash were:
Mr. Matthew Girvin, Programme Officer (USA); Ms. B. Bayarmaa, Programme Officer, UNFPA-Mongolia (Mongolian); Ms. Sabine Metzner-Strack, UNDAC team leader (German); Mr. Gerard Le Claire, UNDAC team member (USA).
Mr. Sh. Otgonbileg, Member of Parliament; Mr. Batzorig, photographer from Gamma Agency; Mr. Otgon, helicopter technician.
Mr. Takahiro Kato, NHK TV reporter (Japanese); Mr. Minoru Masake, NHK TV cameraman (Japanese).
Eleven of the fourteen survivors have sustained severe burns and were hospitalised in the soum hospital before being transferred to Ulaangom’s hospital in the capital of Uvs aimag. Mayors from Malchin soum and Tsagaankhairkhan soum were among the survivors.
Two flights left from Ulaanbaatar to Ulaangom on January 15 to bring back the survivors. The plane landed in Ulaanbaatar, and Frank Forden (Germany) and three others were able to walk unaided from the plane. Passengers hospitalised in Ulaanbaatar have each been assigned one nurse and one doctor to treat them.
A specially equipped clinical UNDP plane was used to transfer a seriously ill Chinese man from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing for urgent medical treatment.
The bodies of the dead have not yet been transferred to Ulaanbaatar.
The passengers that survived were sitting at the back of the helicopter; the three surviving crew members broke a window in the cockpit, through which they and the eleven passengers climbed to safety.
In a statement given to the press, Gal, an interpreter who survived the crash, said, “I thought we were landing, but there was a loud noise, and we suddenly dropped.”
A commission headed by the Defence Minister, J. Gurragcha, has been established to ascertain the cause of the crash. […]
[…] Preliminary enquiries by the commission have thrown no light on the crash. Gurragcha states that, “The pilot had received permission to land, but the ground was steep, perhaps causing the pilot to become disoriented. Trying to find evidence is very difficult; everything has turned to ash.”
[…] The Prime Minister sent condolences to the families of the deceased. […] The Mongolian relatives of the dead have travelled to the crash site. Japanese relatives of the two-man Japanese TV crew, and eight representatives from TV station NHK, arrived in Ulaanbaatar on January 15.
MIAT have offered to reimburse the travelling costs incurred by the victims’ relatives and will pay out T16 million compensation to the families of the dead.
Another UN team has been assembled and arrived in Ulaanbaatar on January 16 to complete the disaster relief mission.
N.B. MIAT bought the MI-8 JU1025 helicopter in 1986 from Russian aircraft manufacturers in Novosibirsk. Since 1986, the helicopter has undergone repairs five times. The last repair was made in Ulaan-Ude, Russia, on June 15, 2000.
’We Will Finish What They Started’
A memorial service was held at the Foreign Ministry on January 18 for the four UN staff and the two Japanese men who were killed in the helicopter crash. Mounted photographs of the six were displayed. Flags representing the nationalities of the deceased were placed to the left of their framed portraits.
The memorial service was hosted by Ms. Saraswathi Menon, the UN’s Resident Coordinator. The dead were commemorated by their colleagues, friends, and family. […] ms. Menon said that [they were paying their] last respects to a Mongolian mother, a German mother, a young American who was just planning to have a family of his own, and Englishman who married just three months ago, and two Japanese fathers. […] A heartrending moment came […] when Minori Masaki’s two-year-old son said “Otoosan” (“father” in Japanese) when he saw his late father’s photograph on the wall.
A speech given by Carolyn McAski, the UN’s Humanitarian Relief Coordinator, described the role of the UN: “Everyday, around the world, the UN sends its brightest and best. We respond to conflict, we become one with the people we help… We go where there is risk and danger, without hesitation, to get crucial first-hand information.
”For the first time, it was to be a fateful journey… I came to announce the international appeal; instead, I mourn my friends. We are committed to inscribing their names on the UN role of honour. We will never forget you. UN staff will complete their work, making it a true memorial to them.
”Throughout this week, I’ve been brought face to face with the government and people of this beautiful and historic land. I’ll be pleased to report efficiency, compassion, and transparency is ingrained in the people of Mongolia.”
A statement jointly prepared by Matthew Girvin’s colleagues at UNICEF said that they “mourn the tragic loss of Matthew, who was a tremendously loving colleague. I feel strongly that Matthew and his colleagues would have wanted us to forge onwards.”
The death of B. Bayarmaa was described by her colleagues at UNFPA as ‘unbearable’. Her husband said, “My dear, your memory will be in my heart forever.”
Sabine Metzner-Strack was considered ‘one of our very best’ by her UN counterparts. Her daughter praised her mother’s achievements with the UN, and her love for her own family, which was always evident despite the pressures of her job.
A spokesman for the LeClaire family heralded Gerard as “a symbol of professionalism and dedication.”
The four UN staff killed in the helicopter crash were part of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC), and had been invited by the Mongolian government to assess the Zud disaster, and assist in providing disaster relief. They were “a team of the highest calibre. The field research they were undertaking was to complement their desk-bound research.”
UNDAC was created in 1993, and had never experienced an accident in over 73 missions.
”We leave today with the deepest of sorrows and the highest of pride.”
[…] Memorials for the UN staff members [will also] be held on January 29 at the OCHA Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and February 8 at the UN Headquarters in New York City. The memorial in New York will be held in the UN Secretariat Building in the presence of the UN Secretary General.
On Wednesday, January 17, the Ikh Khural (Mongolian Parliament) adopted Decree No. 6 in respect to UN staff, [announcing] a nation-wide mourning on January 18-19, 2001, in connection with the crash […] The government ruled that the state flag of Mongolia fly at half-mast or be held at 45 degrees, that all entertainment and sports activities be stopped for 24 hours starting from 6 p.m. on January 18, and that traffic be halted nationwide for three minutes at 2 p.m. on January 19.
State Schools Criticised for Not Pushing Children Academically
Teachers from the privately run Sant School have criticised state secondary schools. They say that state schools do not push their pupils hard enough academically, and have shortened lessons, not providing enough classes to cover the spectrum of subjects thoroughly.
The Sant School specialises in teaching mathematics and foreign languages, and believe that their students are more successful due to their superior curriculum. Apparently, their students often take first places in the national, city, and district mathematics Olympiads. “Mongolian children are used to a soft and easy training programme. Parents are afraid to enrol their children in more classes. There has not been any student that has been stressed out during the four academic years we’ve been operating, despite out more intensive programme,” said G. Zurgaanjin, director of the Sant School.
The school recently organised a mathematics Olympiad for students of grades one through five. Most of the gold-medal winners were students from Sant School.
Cold Weather is Devastating Mongolia
The first ten days of the new millennium saw temperatures sharply decreasing, and on January 7, day temperatures reached minus 44-50 degrees Celsius in Zavkhan, Khovsgol, Bulgan, and Selenge aimags. On the same day, temperatures measuring minus 40 Celsius were recorded in Yarmag, an area close to Ulaanbaatar’s Buyant-Ukhaa Airport.
Due to extreme cold and poor weather, Ulaanbaatar was enveloped in a fog. This is a rare occurrence during the wintertime, and visibility was reduced to 5-10 metres, posing a danger for drivers and pedestrians alike.
Forty percent of buildings in the Bagakhangai district experienced freezing temperatures due to an electricity cut. Residents of the central part of Selenge aimag have been in danger of freezing in their homes due to three stoves at the local power plant failing. The power plants are working at full capacity, and the cold weather is predicted to last until the end of January.
Students of secondary schools and kindergartens were given a five-day holiday. Foru people have frozen to death this year, and many more have visited the trauma clinic because of frostbite. The trauma clinic has received about 100 people a day since the start of the year. Sixty percent of out-patients had fallen on icy surfaces. Traffic accidents have increased. Eighty-six road accidents happened in only one week.
From the very first day of the new year, aimags have been subject to heavy snow storms, and in eastern and Gobi aimags, wind speeds have reached 26-28 metres per second. Eight people were killed in snow storms, and 28 herders are missing, presumed dead, with their animals. A total of 100,000 animals have been lost in the storms. According to the State Special Standing Commission, a total of 281,500 animals have died throughout the nation. This number increases daily.
The severe winter Mongolia is experiencing is due to cold currents of air from Siberia. The coldest temperature recorded in Mongolia was minus 55.6 Celsius, in 1976, in Uvs aimag. Ulaanbaatar’s lowest low was in 1956, with a temperature of minus 49 Celsius recorded. Warmest winter temperatures were experienced in January 1966, in Tsetserleg, Arkhangai aimag, when the temperature reached 9.8 Celsius.
Timber Merchants Protest at Unfair Government Restrictions
Mongolian timber merchants and carpenters are protesting against the Nature and Environment Minister’s resolution which prohibits the felling of healthy trees. Both the 1996 and the recently introduced 2001 resolution state that only trees from fire damage may be felled and used for making furniture or sold to timber merchants.
After the 1996 resolution was passed, there were widespread forest fires, which may have been started deliberately by industry insiders in order that the industry still got its required quota to fulfil contracts, says Sh. Bold, executive director of the Association for Timber Businesses.
Timber merchants complain that the wood they are allowed to sell to clients is of poor quality. Trees that have been burned become very dry, and are unsuitable for the purposes of furniture makers.
Woodland covers ten percent of Mongolia. […] Mongolia produced 2 million cubic metres of timber before 1990. Specialists say that the decline of the timber industry began with the onset of democracy. The government stopped financing the industries in 1990. The cost of technical equipment rocketed. The timber industry receive no support from the government, and businesses are unable to take out loans from banks, who refuse to make agreements with them. Another nail in the industry’s coffin is that, as the government considers that Mongolia’s tree reserves have been reduced, there is a limit on the amount of trees that can be cut down – a limit some industry insiders believe is too low.
At an irregular meeting on January 13, the government released a decision allowing 250,000 cubic metres of wood to be felled during 2001 for export. T900 million from the sale of the wood will be used to revive a 6500 hectare area from which the wood is taken. This measure does not extend to timber merchants, who consider this to be a way for the government to boost the state budget.
New Electricity Metre Pays Off for the Customer
Right after the New Year, the Infrastructure Ministry decreased electricity rates for night-time use by 80%-90%. Therefore, time-discriminating electricity metres are soon to be introduced city-wide. Metres will determine the amount of electricity used at three times of the day: from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Rates will vary with each period of use.
According to the ministry’s decision, the cost of one kilowatt hour of electricity used between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. will be 4.5 tugriks per household and 17 tugriks per business.
Already, large industry, including Erdenet Copper Mining Company and Hotol Cement Factory, have installed the meters. Households and businesses that would like to purchase this electricity metre should apply to the Energy Authority.
Assessment Team’s Survey of Eastern Mongolia - by A. Delgermaa
”The surprising thing about Mongolia is the huge distance, which means a huge logistical problem in such cold winter conditions,” said Mr. Heinrich Gloor, leader of the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination Team which drove by jeep to the eastern part of Mongolia to conduct an on-site assessment of the zud situation. […]
Herders far removed from one another and from the administration centres are facing multiple human- and livestock-related problems during the harsh winter thus far.
Herders are migrating with hundreds of animals, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away from home, looking for better pastures. But there are no such grounds for such hopes. “The drought of last summer and early snow from October and November has covered all the territory with icy layers,” explained Colonel Ch. Batchuluun of the State Emergency Commission. The first snowfalls occurred in the mountainous areas and moved to the southern Gobi regions later on.
Ten head of cattle belonging to B. Erdenejav’s family died during the night of January 11-12 on their way to better pastureland, and three calves were unable to walk, lying in the deep snow the next night. “We’ll come back again in the morning to see if they can go on. If not, we’ll leave them here,” told Erdenejav’s young boys who are driving about a hundred cattle to Jalaa, Tsenkher-Mandal soum, Khentii aimag. The family moved from Tov aimag to Kherlen-Bayan-Ulaan in Khentii aimag, the reserve pastureland which was once home to 410,000 animals, at a distance of 100 kilometres. But the migration was unsuccessful because the land was dry during the summer and prairie fires burned up what little grass remained.
The family was not alone in scouring the land. Approximately 100,000 animals and 40 families – some from Uvs and Gobi-Altai, a thousand kilometres away – came to Kherlen-Bayan-Ulaan this winter, according to aimag authorities.
Now Erdenejav’s family is migrating again, some 30 kilometres to Jalaa to save the livestock from starvation. But both humans and animals are exhausted. Legs of the cattle were bleeding, and the boys’ faces were frozen as they trudged along on unyielding, ice-covered steppes.
Herders were unable to prepare enough hay and fodder reserves last autumn because of summer droughts. To save their animals, families share their own food supplies with livestock, make strong tea, or prepare energy-rich foods with horse fat and liver for the feeble animals.
Hunger is not the sole reason for animal death. Temperatures sinking to as low as –50 Celsius at night, and below –30 Celsius during the day, are killing area livestock in pasture or shelter. “Sheep or goats get on top of weaker ones in order to feel warm, and the weak ones perish,” told Ts. Munkh-Ochir while preparing for his third migration in Tsenkhermandal soum. “The unusual drops in temperature, down to –50 degrees, are raising the death toll and are become a trouble spot of this year’s zud,” said Colonel Batchuluun. Further down the road in our jeeps, the Colonel spoke to me about the climatic changes of recent years – hot summers of +30 Celsius, cold winters of –40 to –50 Celsius. “It might be because of global changes. Moscow has had temperatures of above zero, while it was –60 Celsius in Siberia during the early January temperature drop.”
The situation was the same at Delgerkhaan soum, Khentii aimag, when our jeeps finally arrived after a seven-hour drive over a 60-kilometre distance – getting stuck dozens of times in the snow. The Tserendorj family herds 2,000 animals, half of which belong to the Mongolian Army. “Twenty have died so far – all to exposure,” Mr. L. Tserendorj said. The family does not intend to move, though. “Pasture is the same everywhere, so it’s better to stay and risk it,” he continued. The hay from a Japanese aide package was distributed in part to them, which will sustain the animals for a while.
The scenes of livestock death out on the steppe were increasing along the way. The lowest loss of animal life for a family was ten, the highest sixty. The winter is only starting.
Colonel Ts. Baast, the commander of the military unit located in Delgerkhaan soum, where Mongolian Army livestock are bred, says that antelopes and finches have frozen to death on the steppe, noting that wild populations are also severely affected by the zud.
Severe temperatures will last until the end of January, and more snowfall is expected in February, according to the Environmental Meteorology Institute. The disastrous situation is expected to last until May.
Snowstorms coupled with driving winds are killing people and animals. Herders suffer frostbite while tending or searching for animals. “I was walking non-stop,” explained I. Renchindorj, a 56-year-old man who is now missing both his arms. He left his home at seven o’clock in the evening to go for his livestock when a storm started up. “A few hours later, I realised that I was lost.” He did not stop walking, and found a family the next day at nine o’clock in the morning. Because of distance and transportation problems, he could only get medical care at five in the evening in Sumber soum, Govsumer aimag, after it was too late to save his arms.
Soon, herders will be facing food shortages. Currently, families are living on meat rations prepared last October, and merchants cannot reach them because of road conditions. “Very little flour is left from what was supplied by the Red Cross, and we can’t reach the soum centre to get the next shipment because of transportation and snow difficulties,” said Ms. S. Khandjav, an elderly lady living in Tsagaandelger soum, Dudgobi aimag. Her family lost most of their animals in last year’s zud, and now has only 50 remaining. But losses have started again.
”In late March and early April, weak people and weak animals are still facing a lack of food and grasslands,” Heinrich Gloor said, stressing that cold temperatures were consuming too much energy.
”I hope that herders are drawing the conclusion that pastoral livestock breeding is the cause of such losses in disastrous conditions,” Colonel Batchuluun stated. He proposes a wintertime system that allows animals to be fed rather than dependent on grazing.
China Tallies 29 Killed in Inner Mongolia Snows
China said on Sunday [January 20] that 29 people have frozen to death, and more than 800 have been injured in snowstorms this winter in the northern region of Inner Mongolia.
Xinhua News Agency quoted local officials as saying devastating blizzards had hit 31 counties, affecting 1.64 million people and causing damage to herds and pastureland.
The local government’s struggle to help herdsmen restore their normal life and production could be compounded by more snow in the coming week, it said.
About 220,500 animals have died, it added.
Blizzards, which began on New Year’s Eve and have been called by the Chinese Red Cross the worst in fifty years, were mixed with sand from the Gobi Desert.
People in badly hit areas were unprepared for the storm and had only enough food and feed reserves to last two more months, while North China’s harsh winter could mean the snow lingers until April, a local official said.
To the north, the United Nations was expected to launch an appeal for aid to help the nation of Mongolia through a devastating winter that is turning into one of the country’s worse disasters in many decades.
The arctic conditions have killed eight herders and about 500,000 animals since November – a crippling blow for a country where one third of the population relies entirely on livestock for food, shelter, transport, heating, and income.
Deep snow has blanketed pastures on which their herds usually feed in the winter, and temperatures have plunged as low as minus 50 Celsius [minus 58 Farenheit].
Gruesome Crime Leaves One Man in Custody
A heinous crime was committed at Apartment Building #30 in the Second Microdistrict of Sukhbaatar District. Five people were savagely murdered at their home.
G. Batjargal, a 61-year-old man, his wife Sevjid, their daughter Uranbat and her nine- and thirteen-year-old sons, Enkh-Orshikh and Monkh-Orshikh, were the victims. The murderers cut the throats of the five victims and repeatedly stabbed each victim five to twelve times. The district police department was informed of the homicides by the daughter-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. Batjargal at approximately 10 a.m. Sunday morning.
The day and time of the killings has not been released.
Mr. Batjargal was the former Deputy Minister of Food and Light Industry. Until 2000, he worked as the director of Soap Trade Co. and was currently acting advisor of an unnamed food company. His two grandsons were in the first and seventh grades. Ms. Uranbat worked at Makh-Impex Co. She leaves a widower behind, who was working in South Korea at the time of the murders.
The bodies of the victims were carried to the Forensic Hospital.
Mr. and Mrs. Batjargal’s son, Bayarbat, a suspect in the crimes, is now in police custody.