Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ulaanbaatar May Run Out of Water By 2015

Ulaanbaatar in the winter

A recent consultative meeting between the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Green Development (MNEGD), the National Water Authority, and the Tuul River Basin Administration (TRBA) in Mongolia concluded that Ulaanbaatar, is slated to face severe water shortages by 2015. The meeting, titled “The Queen River Tuul and Ulaanbaatar’s Fate,” was held on March 20th and discussed the measures needed to address rapidly impending groundwater shortages, emphasizing the importance of effective water management and the need to enforce limits on water use by households and businesses.
In an interview with the UB Post, Senior Official of the Data Control and Assessment Division of the TRBA, Ya. Boldbaatar, shared details regarding the issue.
UB Post: Officials have reported that Ulaanbaatar will soon face water shortages. How much water is left?
Ya. Boldbaatar: Ulaanbaatar city gets 98 percent of its water from groundwater. The city consumes 330,000 cubic meters (m3) of groundwater each day. At this rate, our city will begin to run out of groundwater in 2015.
UBP: Surface water has also declined. A large number of fish are dying in the Tuul River too. Am I right?
YB: Yes. The Tuul, Selbe and Uliastai Rivers are the biggest sources of surface water. Water levels of the Tuul, Terelj and Khuin rivers have decreased. Worse still, the surface water in our country, especially in the Tuul river, is alarmingly polluted. Massive numbers of fish and fresh water animals are dying.
UBP: It seems that although everyone worries about our drinking water, we are not doing anything to properly manage our use of it. What kinds of ways are there are to preserve our water resources?
YB: There is a way to access more groundwater through additional water well construction. It has also been proposed that we erect a concrete dam on the Tuul River, establish artificial lakes and pools, and recycle wastewater: treating it so that it can be used again. There is also potential to develop the Central Water Treatment Plant of the Ulaanbaatar Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (USUG) into a “Biogas Technology Complex” so as to treat sewage and use it for water supplies (exempting drinking water) and to form a bio-pond with the remaining water, which will support the Tuul River in times of drought.
UBP:How will you control business entities that consume water too much?
YB: The MNEGD and waste sector agencies are inspecting companies and installing water consumption calculators. The MNEGD is also requiring companies to conduct environmental impact assessments. If we introduce advanced technology for water saving into Mongolia, it will be easier to demand that companies contribute to water saving activities.
Ulaanbaatar is the capital city of Mongolia, and the location of Friends of Humanity’s partner organization, Lamp of the Path, which provides hot meals and medical care to the city’s poor and homeless. Designated as the coldest capital of the world, Ulaanbaatar is plagued by long and harsh winters. Summers are dry and hot, although occasional rain storms are often strong and result in localized flooding.  The extreme climate makes it even more difficult to manage natural resources, as water levels fluctuate dramatically. The current challenges facing Mongolia are dire, and require immediate action to stem consequences of losing groundwater resources altogether. 

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