Environmental Concerns

Environmental Concerns

After many years of uncritical fostering of industrial and urban growth, Mongolia's authorities became aware in the late 1980s of the environmental costs of such policies. Belated Soviet concern over the pollution of Lake Baykal encouraged Mongolian actions to preserve their counterpart Hovsgol Nuur, which is linked to Lake Baykal through the Selenge Moron. A wool-scouring plant that had been discharging wastes into Hovsgol Nuur was closed; truck traffic on the winter ice was banned; and the shipping of oil in barges on the lake was stopped. Deforestation in the Hangayn Nuruu, had reduced the flow of northern Mongolia's rivers, which were polluted by runoff from the fertilized and pesticide-treated grain fields along their banks, by industrial wastes, and by untreated sewage from growing settlements. Ulaanbaatar--located in a valley--with factories and 500,000 inhabitants who depend on soft coal, had severe air pollution, especially when the air was still and cold in winter. Deforestation, overgrazing of pastures, and efforts to increase grain and hay production by plowing up more virgin land had resulted in increased soil erosion, both from wind and from heavy downpours of the severe thunderstorms that bring much of Mongolia's rain. In the south, the desert area of the Gobi was expanding, threatening the fragile gobi pasturelands. The government responded by founding the Ministry of Environmental Protection in 1987 and by giving increased publicity to environmental issues.

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