I travel to the Mongolian Capital, Ulaanbaatar in August, to work as Architecture Teacher Trainer at the independent Construction Technology College, БАРИЛГЫН ТЕХНОЛОГИЙН КОЛЛЕЖ (www.ctc.edu.mn).
Mongolia is a developing country, and I have been reading in the VSO notes that forty percent of the country’s population of 2.7 million people currently live below the poverty line. 34 percent of the population depend directly on livestock for their livelihoods, and a further 26 percent is indirectly dependent upon livestock. With 33 million domestic animals, Mongolia is known as a 'land of livestock'; most of the population are traditional nomadic herders. I found it interesting that huge sections of the population today continue to live in the Ger, the traditional felt circular dwelling of choice in Mongolia for more than 1,000 years.
The country is rich in minerals such as oil, coal and gas, and while mining is hugely important to the economy, it is becoming apparent that recent development in industry has created significant environmental damage. The environmental movement in Mongolia appeared in the world media in April 2007. I suddenly noticed in a London newspaper an award of what is reputedly the world’s biggest environmental prize to Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, who inspired the formation of the Mongolia Nature Protection Coalition. The Goldman Environmental Prize is apparently the world’s biggest accolade for grassroots environmental activists. I can imagine rural communities in Mongolia are undergoing massive change in the country’s transition from a centralized command economy to a market economy. Many state-owned factories have closed, with losses of jobs and the poor moving back to the land, further stretching the already depleted resources of the countryside. The work of Tstsegee Munkhbayar has increased the profile of a popular movement to restore the vitally important Onggi river. (www.goldmanprize.org)