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Ulaanbaatar: Historical Background, Environmental Issues

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Historical background of the area

Ulaanbaatar is the capital and largest city of Mongolia. Settled in north-central Mongolia, located on the Tuul River bank at an elevation of 1,350 m. The city began as a seasonal migratory abode of the Mongolian princes and in 1639 eventually accomplished permanence on the present site with the construction of Da Khure Monastery. This building became the habitation of the bodgo-gegen and continued as such for around 200 years. Da Khure has become well-known trade center between China and Russia.

The city was renamed Niislel Khuree which means the capital of Mongolia during Outer Mongolia declared itself independent in 1911. In 1921 it was controlled by troops of Mongolia’s revolutionary leader, Damdiny Sühbaatar, and the Soviet Red Army. When Mongolia was declared a people’s republic in 1924, the city was renamed Ulaanbaatar, which means “Red Hero”. The Soviet helped to plan new city while Sühbaatar Square, site of a government building, a history museum, and the national theatre were central features of that planning. The city is also the site of the National University of Mongolia (1942), several professional and technical schools, and the Academy of Sciences of Mongolia.

Ulaanbaatar is the main industrial center of Mongolia. An industrial complex produces a variety of consumer goods. There are cement, iron, and brick works; footwear and garment factories; vehicle-repair works; food-processing plants; and other factories. A railroad and an international airport connect the city with China and Russia.

Current environmental issues

Ulaanbaatar City has expanded rapidly as its population increased even more in a decade. At present, the population is about 1.3 million with half of the population of Mongolia living in the capital city. The urban characteristics of Ulaanbaatar are different from other growing cities in Asia with thought to a cold climate, history of nomadic life, socialistic-based urban planning system, etc. After democratization and reform to the capitalist economy in 90’s and land privatization to citizens, UB City has faced various urban issues such as an uncontrolled expansion of urban areas, traffic congestion, unstable urban economy and market, infrastructure gap, hazard risk, worsening living environment, pollutions, and inappropriate urban management.

At present, air pollution has become one of the most tackled issues of every citizen living in the capital city. The main source of air pollution is ger-area which can be 60-70% source of air pollution. Twenty percent of Mongolia’s population has migrated to Ulaanbaatar over the past three decades. The Dzud is kind of natural disaster that has driven many to leave their traditional way of living herding cattle and sheep and move to the capital. Dzud is an ultra-cold-weather event supposed to occur in five-yearly cycles but has been increasing in through the country. The dzuds reduce the farmers” livelihoods, and due to lack of political systems, the only option left is to move to Ulaanbaatar and get a work. The people migrate to the city with their gers, the amount of stoves increases too, each belting out enough fire to cook three meals a day and burn the cold gers through the wintertime.

Ger is Mongolian traditional house that is very suitable for nomadic people who move very frequently. However, the ger is not convenient for living in city area because of hazard risk, no connection of water, drainage, sewerage, heating, solid waste collection, etc. The ger areas have no running water or waste disposal, while school and health hospital are massively exceed by citizens.

Urban planning of the area related to environmental countermeasure.

The old built-up areas of the city center include some 130 km2 but the whole central area of UB, including ger areas, is now estimated at around 4,700 km2. Basic services are extremely poor or even non-existent in ger areas because of a population of ger area which includes 60 percent of total population of UB. Approximately 85 percent of ger citizen’s burn wood or coal in stoves for heating, in contrast, all apartment buildings are connected to the central heating system. Ger residents must buy water at public water kiosks, while apartment residents enjoy stable supplies of piped-in drinking and hot water. The people who lived in ger area faced health risks such as respiratory diseases and hepatitis because of poor urban services that can have led to environmental degradation, including the pollution of air and soil.

Enormous efforts have been made for the planning of ger-area development by the UB City government since 2002 when the urbanization process significantly began in UB. Urban planners are required to hold some physical and spatial images for the development need to be delineated. In order to develop and planning ger-area should be considered about various aspect of the environmental issue. In this report, I would like to more consider to develop ger area above the two way that would provide better condition to live for the citizens: Housing and land,  Roads and Public Transport

Housing and Land

Citizens tend to privatize land that effort has been increasing after the country’s change to a market economy. Private ownership of land and houses is generally high. In older and established ger areas, nearly 99 percent of families own their own dwellings and land. Private ownership of land is around 60 percent for apartments and 92 percent for single family housing. A long-term goal is to move ger area into the apartment. Mongolian government present plan to construct apartment instead of ger area. But, the plan has been put on hold because of growing economic pressure.

Roads and Public Transport

The poor condition of unplanned and unstructured earthen roads in ger areas is one of the most serious concerns expressed by ger residents. Many parts of these roads are impassable for vehicles, have drainage problems, pose traffic safety hazards and are the source of a substantial amount of dust. Also, the lack of street lights contributes to higher crime rates after dark. Inadequate access to public transportation ger citizens at a problem because they spend many times to go their work and schools. Residents who live in suburb tend to rely massively on public buses because they cannot buy a private car. Inhabitants of ger areas walk long distances from public transportation because some other transportation such as buses, mini-buses, and taxis cannot serve on the small dirt roads in ger areas.

Discussions on current plans

Housing and Land: About an apartment market price is on average Tg(Tugrug Mongolian currency)43.4 million–Tg60.2 million ($31,000–$43,000) which are worthy assets for families in the city. On the other hand, the market price of ger area is lower than apartment except for the area [Tg29.4 million ($21,000)] where is located near to downtown. Also, the price decreases central area to suburb area [Tg1,820,000 ($1,300)]. Resident in ger area will not have a chance to live in an apartment without some loan because of their lack of a financial problem. Furthermore, a mortgage loan is just starting to develop in the city. 10 percent of house owners using and fewer than 20 percent of apartment residents use mortgage loan. Solving this critical issue, the government should more consider some alternatives way like low-cost housing and low-income public rental housing.

Ger area residents are not generally satisfied with their living environment due to such factors as air pollution and the lack of key infrastructure and social facilities, including roads, garbage collection, and public space. Numerous citizens, particularly those living close to downtown and in the remote ger areas, would prefer to live in apartments. However, a number of residents, who live near the city center, prefer to retain their existing housing but with recovered living conditions and greater infrastructure and services. Even for residents who have steady incomes and could afford to purchase apartments, getting loans from commercial banks at an affordable rate would be a key challenge. This is because bank loans are scarce and credit and mortgage market are still evolving.

Roads and Public Transport

One of the key reasons operators do not provide service to these areas is the extremely poor condition of roads, which prevents them from entering many areas. Improving road quality would encourage public transport providers to extend their operations, and it would appear that demand is high for public transport services in these areas. While paving roads would increase access, it would also have a dramatic impact on area development, both in terms of land use and socio-economic activity. As such, any plans to pave or build roads must be considered in light of local land use plans. If roads are to be paved, facilities for pedestrians, including sidewalks and street lighting, must be included. It would also make sense to consider preserving the rights-of-way for possible future utility services (power, water and waste water), although this could involve considerable additional expense. However, because of the significant cost involved, the provision of water supply and sanitation services should only be considered if there are apartment blocks along a paved road’s alignment.

Maintaining the improved roads would present another challenge. The value of maintaining roads has long been recognized: Roads in good condition reduce vehicle operating costs, decrease travel times, and contribute to safe driving conditions. All road projects would need to be carefully reviewed and subjected to a variety of technical assessments. These would include geotechnical studies and hydrological reviews, as well as economic, financial, environmental and social analyses to ensure their viability and value for money.

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