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Friday, March 3, 2017

[CICG vendor pulls out; Jan FDI falls 52%; Bat-Uul enters race; MMJ explains new mining bill; and King Tug climbs to 27th]

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Friday, March 3, 2017

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Jump to: Int'l Market - Local Market - Economy - Politics & Legal - Business - Ulaanbaatar - Diplomacy - Health & Education - Culture & Society - Nature & Environment - Sports - Art & Entertainment - Travel

Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

HEADLINES

Int'l Market

·         Mongolia caps size of new 7-year US dollar bond issue at $600m

·         CICG: Mongolia project vendors withdraw from acquisition until trading on exchange

Local Market

·         MSE Trading Report: Top 20 +0.41%, ALL +0.17%, Turnover ₮33.8 Million Shares

·         UN Security Council Sanctions lists available through FRC website

Economy

·         MNT halts 6-day winning streak vs USD

·         BoM buys $12m at ₮2,470, declines MNT swap offers

·         GoM sells ₮70 billion 12-week t-bills at 16.911% discount with ₮70 billion bids

·         Mongolia's sees $38.3m FDI in January, 52% less than 2016, current account deficit shrinks 85%

Politics & Legal

·         Former mayor E.Bat-Uul enters race for Presidential election

·         Mongolia's new mining law to have longer regulatory reach

Business

·         New deal to see Mongolian buildings go sustainable

Ulaanbaatar

·         How Deadly Pollution Became One of Mongolia's Biggest Problems

·         BCM Guideline for Companies to Combat Air Pollution

·         Thousand police officers keep 'Tsagaan sar' traffic flowing

·         Book Exchange Day to be held Saturday on Sukhbaatar Square

·         What can you eat with $10 in UB

·         Finding solutions to common problems facing young people

Diplomacy

·         Mongolian Ambassador, former PM S.Bayar presents credentials to Queen Elizabeth

·         Amb. John Langtry: Governments Are Not Good at Business

Culture & Society

·         1,500 Mongolians permitted entry to South Korea under government employment contract

·         Mongolia's guardian dogs help preserve steppe ecology

·         Breaking waste picker stereotypes with 'Baatar'

Nature & Environment

·         4.1 magnitude earthquake shakes Selenge's Zuunkharaa

Sports

·         Mongolian 'King Tug' defeats Philippine 'Disaster' Gemino for 8-0, climbs to world 27th

Art & Entertainment

·         Two Mongolians reach finals of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2017

·         Mongolia's 'Khusugtun' to perform tomorrow at UN

·         Mongolian folk music band Khusugtun playing in NY's Rubin Museum on March 10

Travel

·         I Documented Mongolia's Mystical Tsaatan Reindeer People

 

 

ARTICLES

Int'l Market

Mongolia caps size of new 7-year US dollar bond issue at $600m

By Daniel Stanton

SINGAPORE, March 2 (IFR) - The Government of Mongolia , rated Caa1/B-/B-, has capped the size of new US dollar seven-year bonds at $600 million and given guidance for a new money component alongside an exchange offer.

Holders of $476 million of Development Bank of Mongolia's state-guaranteed March 2017 bonds agreed to exchange them for new sovereign bonds. These will be exchanged at par for new bonds yielding 8.75 percent, the minimum yield that was indicated for the offer.

Since the old DBM bonds were issued under Regulation S and were not sold in the US, while the sovereign bonds are being sold under 144A/Reg S, it has been decided to allow new investors to buy into the offering. Guidance for the new money tranche has been indicated at 8.25 percent area, meaning that those investors will pay a premium to face value.

The combined size of both tranches is capped at $600 million, since $580 million is needed to redeem the DBM bonds on March 21.

Credit Suisse and JP Morgan are managing the transaction, which will price today.

Mongolia reached a funding agreement with the International Monetary Fund on February 19, without which it had been expected to struggle to repay the DBM bonds.

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CICG is in trading suspension since …

CICG: Mongolia project vendors withdraw from acquisition until trading on exchange

Corporate Update

March 2 -- CIC Gold (LSE:"CICG" or the "Company") is pleased to provide the following general corporate update.

New Director Appointment

The Company is pleased to confirm the appointment of Mr. Kevin Holley as Non-Executive Director effective from March 1, 2017. Mr. Kevin Holley has some 34 years international experience as a Director and Geotechnical Engineer including 16 years with SRK Consulting, one of the World's leading multi-disciplinary mining advisory companies. Mr. Kevin Holley is a Chartered Engineer (CPEng), a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Fellow of Engineers Australia. Mr. Kevin Holley detailed profile is available on the Company's website www.CICGold.com.

Mr. Jeffrey Karoly is to retire from the board and act as independent advisor to the company. Mr. Jeffrey Karoly is to be appointed to an un-related company seeking a public listing on the London Stock Exchange. 

The Company maintains a 3/2 ratio of independent non-executive directors vs. executive directors to ensure highest standards of corporate governance. 

Gobi Mineral Group Acquisition

The Company announced that it was subject to a regulator enquiry on January 4, 2017. Post this announcement the vendors have withdrawn from the acquisition until the Company is trading on a designated exchange.  

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Local Market

MSE Trading Report: Top 20 +0.41%, ALL +0.17%, Turnover 33.8 Million Shares

March 2 (MSE) --

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UN Security Council Sanctions lists available through FRC website

Ulaanbaatar, March 2 (MONTSAME) The Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia has put on its official website a link to the Consolidated Sanctions List, which includes all individuals and entities subject to sanctions measures imposed by the UN Security Council. Member States are obliged to inform the list and implement the measures specific to each listed name as specified on websites of the related sanctions committee of the Security Council.

Interested bodies can visit "Fighting against money laundering and terrorism' section of www.frc.mn website to get the list. The commission also warns commercial banks, non-banking financial institutions, insurers, professional institutions, who participate in stock markets, insurance and investment actions, to inform suspicious transactions within 24 hours to the Financial Information Unit of the Bank of Mongolia.

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Economy

Reds are when MNT fell, greens when it rose. Bold reds are rates that set a new historic high at the time.

BoM MNT Rates: Thursday, March 2 Close

 

3/2

2/24

2/23

2/22

2/21

2/20

2/17

2/16

2/15

2/14

High

Date

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USD

2,470.84

2,470.83

2,473.63

2,476.02

2,479.84

2,482.29

2,483.11

2,483.39

2,482.58

2,485.38

2,498.75

1/10/2017

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EUR

2,604.14

2,617.84

2,608.32

2,601.68

2,623.05

2,635.45

2,645.75

2,635.37

2,625.20

2,636.99

2,681.43

11/10/2016

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JPY

21.64

21.92

21.85

21.83

21.84

21.94

21.89

21.79

21.68

21.89

23.49

11/9/2016

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GBP

3,035.80

3,100.15

3,086.72

3,091.68

3,082.44

3,085.98

3,100.91

3,100.51

3,092.30

3,112.19

3,183.26

8/13/2014

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RUB

42.33

42.67

42.73

42.99

42.85

42.75

43.06

43.35

43.78

43.06

54.32

6/27/2014

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CNY

359.01

359.62

359.70

359.97

360.12

361.01

361.45

361.91

361.47

361.72

363.02

1/5/2017

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KRW

2.16

2.18

2.17

2.17

2.17

2.16

2.16

2.17

2.18

2.18

2.18

2/6/2017

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SGD

1,751.75

1,758.66

1,750.00

1,744.60

1,745.63

1,751.17

1,752.25

1,749.54

1,746.21

1,751.62

1,758.66

2/24/2017

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CAD

1,850.82

1,888.08

1,881.52

1,883.12

1,886.74

1,896.62

1,899.42

1,902.40

1,899.45

1,904.00

1,908.84

1/18/2017

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AUD

1,892.17

1,906.25

1,902.35

1,905.17

1,900.55

1,907.02

1,911.00

1,913.20

1,904.64

1,907.16

1,913.20

2/16/2017

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HKD

318.29

318.40

318.78

319.03

319.52

319.84

319.94

319.99

319.89

320.31

322.21

1/10/2017

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4296ba475e0a2fd5de8e5bee5/images/ae638f8b-a29a-4d70-90b3-52ad2a79d482.png

CHF

2,445.65

2,456.83

2,447.81

2,446.66

2,464.93

2,475.24

2,486.34

2,473.00

2,464.96

2,471.79

2,497.77

11/09/2016

Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,458 Sell ₮2,474), TDB (Buy ₮2,465 Sell ₮2,478), Golomt (Buy ₮2,458 Sell ₮2,474), XacBank (Buy ₮2,462 Sell ₮2,473), State Bank (Buy ₮2,460 Sell ₮2,476)

USD (blue), CNY (red) vs MNT in last 1 year:

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BoM buys $12m at 2,470, declines MNT swap offers

March 2 (Bank of Mongolia) Spot trade: Commercial banks asked weighted average rate of MNT2470.66 for 23.0 million and bid weighted average rate of MNT353.25 for CNY21.0 million respectively. The BoM accepts selling bid offers of USD12.0 million with closing rate of MNT2470.00.

Swap and forward trade: The BoM received buying bid offers of USD1.0  million of MNT swap agreements from commercial banks and the BoM did not accept the bid offers.

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GoM sells 70 billion 12-week t-bills at 16.911% discount with 70 billion bids

March 2 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 12 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 70.0 billion MNT. Face value of 70.0 billion /out of 70.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 16.911 %.

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Mongolia's sees $38.3m FDI in January, 52% less than 2016, current account deficit shrinks 85%

Preliminary Balance of Payments for January, 2017

March 2 (Bank of Mongolia) --

Main indicators            

Current and Capital account balance totaled to $2.4 million deficit which is $49.5 million decline compared to the same period of the previous year. The change was due to decrease by $43.9 million in goods and services account creating surplus of $19.4 million, and decrease by $5 million in income account creating deficit of $41.3 million.

Financial account had a surplus of $97.3 million which is declined by $303.3 million compared to the same period of the last year. According to the interpretation of 6thedition of Balance of Payments manual, Mongolia has a net borrowing during this period.

As of the first month of 2017, overall balance of payment deficit was $175.9 million, net error and omissions was -$76.2 million.

Table 1. Preliminary Balance of Payments for January, 2017, by million USD

Detailed information

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Politics & Legal

Former mayor E.Bat-Uul enters race for Presidential election

Ulaanbaatar, March 2 (MONTSAME) Today, a well-known politician and former mayor of Ulaanbaatar city E.Bat-Uul announced that he is going to enter a Democratic Party (DP) race to determine the nominee for the upcoming Presidential election.  

According to a revised rule of the party, its National policy committee will convene and candidates for the presidency rally will be officially announced.

The nominee from the DP for the Presidential election will be selected through a poll involving all members of the party, similar to how the party had elected its leader.

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Mongolia's new mining law to have longer regulatory reach

The Mongolian Mining Journal /January 2017 098/

February 23 (Mongolian Mining Journal) The Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry has completed work on the draft of a brand new mining law which will soon be offered for public discussion. This does not seek to replace or supersede the current mining law but would be a separate and independent law containing regulatory provisions.

The news has come as a total surprise, and reaction to it has been divided. Some see it as an anomaly that there would be a new law with the existing one remaining in force, but others feel that a new law will be more effective than a series of amendments to plug loopholes in the present law, to resolve contradictions between regulations, and to correct ambiguities.

As far ago as in 2010, the private sector made a strong demand for what was called a 'hat law' as it would comprehensively regulate all areas of the mining sector. Work on a draft began but was abandoned without much progress. The Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy – as it was then called -- decided that the then existing law had to be studied in more detail, and if it needed changes or improvements, amendments to its provisions could take care of that.

A working group established under the Office of the President came up with a draft mining law at the very end of 2013. This faced a lot of criticism and, after a few months during which time it had been discussed in the Civil Chamber, the President announced that he would not proceed with it. Instead, he instructed officials to prepare a state policy on the mineral sector. This was in the early months of 2014, and the Ministry of Mining and its affiliate agencies worked hard to finalise a draft policy document before long. Later in the year this was approved and adopted by the Parliament as the State Policy on the Minerals Sector until 2025. The Reform Government was then in power, and the policy was widely hailed as a real progressive step.

At the same time, the feeling was gaining ground that provisions in the present mining law were inadequate to effectively regulate complex issues cropping up in the course of extraction, processing, closure and rehabilitation activities. The Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry agreed and appointed a working group to prepare the draft of a fresh mining law in November 2016. It was led by J.Ganbaatar, Head of the Mining Policy Department at the Ministry, and its members included specialists from the Ministries of Finance, and Environment and Tourism, the MRPAM and M.Dagva, project advisor to the SESMIM. This group has now submitted the draft.

Ts.Dashdorj, Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry and S.Byambatsogt, Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs, formally approved the concepts of the draft on 5 January. It was put on the ministry's website on 1 January, 2017 and the mandatory open discussions would be held before long.

The preamble gives four reasons for why the law was found necessary and lists three main objectives. The main justification was given in the following words: "Proper implementation of the measures stated in the State Policy on the Minerals Sector until 2024 would be possible only if there is a conducive legal environment related to the mineral law and the entire mining operation cycle including extraction, refining and processing activities is regulated by law."

Another justification given is that a new law is needed to help achieve the avowed goal of the Action Plan of the Government 2016-2020 "to effectively run mining projects and create a legal environment for mine closure". The new regulations will lead to fewer disputes on issues of environmental rehabilitation and also of project implementation, which would be decided after thorough economic and investment analysis.

The justification that has drawn the most attention from industry professionals says, "There is need to make a public revelation of the actual ownership of mining companies, in tune with recent global trends." Now, making it legally mandatory to declare ownership or the pattern of shareholding is certainly one way of ensuring transparency but it is not an easy way, is time consuming and bears the risk of alienating investors. Still, it is in accordance with the interests of national security, promoting responsible and transparent mining, and tightening the monitoring of revenue.

The draft is quite clear about why a new mining law was needed, saying, "The mineral law and law on underground wealth do not completely regulate all areas in the mine life cycle, and some of the regulations are inconsistent with current trends. The mineral law basically regulates matters associated with mining licences, but fails to set out rules on mining investment, infrastructure, extraction, refining, production, rehabilitation and closure. This is leading to problems on the ground."

It is also seen that even though various laws, such as the one on the environment, the mineral law, the law on common mineral resources, on nuclear energy, and others do regulate mining activities to a certain extent, they are sometimes inconsistent with one another and lack the proper mechanism for implementation. This is also included among the justifications.

The proposed new law thus has the potential to resolve inconsistencies in rules and regulations, and eliminating the possibilities of concealed ownership. The working group has promised that 2017 will be the year when the messy legal environment will be put in order and set on a right course.

Areas to be regulated

The objectives are listed in 14 articles and starts with the following, "To extract mineral resources in an economically profitable way with a minimum impact on the environment, and in accordance with national interests and to develop responsible mining practices".

Enumeration of objectives, definitions, the scope of the law, rights of state organizations, the control system and involvement of professional unions and non-governmental organizations are stated in the first two chapters.

Chapters 3-7 include regulations related to goals of geological studies and mineral exploration work, and to stages of financing, reporting on results, requirements for feasibility studies, designing of processing plants, preparations before the resources are used, resources extraction and related activities, refinery, production and waste treatment plants.

Chapters 8-14 consist of issues related to occupational safety, health, rescue measures, the environment, rehabilitation, product sales, mine closure, transparency, management, organization and dispute resolution.

The chapters are divided into stages of the production process and the articles can be changed after the open discussions. Some of these exist now in the form of regulatory practice but without any legal mandate.

In a major move, the draft seeks to change the system of working with an exploration licence first, and then switch to extraction. Under the new law, anyone desirous of running extraction operations would have to show they know and understand the rights and responsibilities of a licence owner before hoping to get the rights to start mining.

A set of articles lists the main requirements for a feasibility study and designing the mine. For example, one article in the fourth chapter says, "The feasibility study of the refinery and processing plant based on the mineral resources deposit will have to be supported by adequate and appropriate technical and technological data giving the most economically efficient option and setting out the schedule of work at every stage of implementation."

A feasibility study will cover all the stages of the project, from initial exploration to mine closure, and mine managers will have to work strictly according to the schedule therein. The present practice of approving a feasibility study within 60 days of its completion is being changed to something more realistic.

Transparency and mine closure

These are the two areas where the new law will have the most impact. As an expression of its intent, the working group has put the two laws into a chapter all by themselves. Clare Short, Chair of the EITI board, spoke about the importance of legal provisions ensuring transparency to the then Prime Minister, Ch.Saikhanbileg, when she met him in June, 2015, and now they are part of a chapter in the draft.

Certain issues related to mine closure are at present regulated differently by the mineral law and the law on the environmental impact assessment. The draft proposes comprehensive regulations reconciling these differences. This is after a working group established last year under the Ministry of Mining to prepare a draft law only for mine closure had found that the contradictions in the present laws were too difficult to resolve.

The issue is of the utmost importance if we are to follow responsible mining practices. People will not any longer allow miners to 'leave behind the empty box after taking the gold'. The demand for stronger regulations with legal force behind them has grown along with the awareness that the mining sector must operate in a sustainable and economically efficient manner, with the minimum harm to the environment. Mining in Mongolia must be more than owning a licence and extracting.

The draft seeks to codify this trend. However, this is not the first time that such an initiative was proposed. Certain similar suggestions were made in the policy research report on improving legal regulations on mine closure in 2010. The present Government's Action Plan 2016-2020 also talks about bringing mining rehabilitation and closure activities to international standards.

Would it have been better to have all regulations on mine closure in one law exclusively devoted to that issue? The present working group obviously did not think so and preferred to make them part of a wider-ranging mining law. Some industry professionals are not convinced.

When the present draft, prepared with international financing, is approved as a mining law, it will change the nature and quality of the way mining is done in Mongolia. Many experts, however, wonder if it would not have been better to wait for some time. Their particular concern is with the mine closure regulations. What is the hurry, they ask, when only two large mines -- Erdenet Mining Corporation and Mongolrostsvetmet – are due to close in the near future?

The work of implementing a law approved by the parliament is usually given to an agency like the MRPAM, which has this responsibility for the mineral law and the law on petroleum. In case the present draft becomes law, the Government will have to establish an implementation structure, and it is doubtful if it has the necessary money for this. On the other hand, dismantling the current Mineral Resource and Petroleum Authority could cause some difficulties.

Given that the existing mineral law is proving inadequate, was there any overwhelming need to prepare a draft for a new law? What is the experience of other countries? Developing countries such as Chile, Vietnam and South Africa usually have one law on mineral resources whilst developed countries such as Australia and Canada also have one, which they call their mining law. Some suggest that Mongolia as a developing country could focus on the cycle-processing concept of the current mineral law and then take time to adopt a mining law.

The mining law in a developed country usually covers only extraction, refining, processing, reclamation, and mine closure, leaving geology-exploration and tax issues out of its ambit.

This is so as the purpose of the mining laws there is to accelerate growth in the mining industry through minimum environmental harm, but for a country like Mongolia, laws should apply more to work on the ground, and be focused on extraction and processing activities and, of course, to proper closure.

Mongolia has a different perspective, and there is no surprise that news of the draft mining law has generated public debate. The Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry's working group has initiated preparation of 10 law amendments including mineral law, law on underground wealth, common environmental law, penal law, law on violation, law on common mineral resources, law on special licence for organizations/entities, and fee on government special seal.

A number of provisions such as feasibility studies on using a mineral deposit, and mine closure plans would be added to the mineral law. Furthermore, the draft mining law states, "The issues related to mine and mine closure will be regulated by the mining law."

Amendments to other laws will also be incorporated into the draft law, which might cause duplication, leading to confusion and lack of clarity, instead of taking the industry forward.

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Business

New deal to see Mongolian buildings go sustainable

March 2 (Energy Live News) A deal has been signed to encourage, promote and develop green buildings in Mongolia.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development (MCUD) to jointly develop mandatory regulations and voluntary policies for this purpose.

The partners will also generate awareness and share knowledge regarding sustainable buildings.

Mongolia is one of the most urbanised countries in Asia – around 72% of its population live in cities.

However, about 60% of these urban residents live in traditional tent dwellings, with many others living in poorly insulated buildings. Both groups still rely heavily on inefficient household stoves and coal-based heating systems.

These methods waste fuel and money, as well as directly contributing to severe air pollution.

Improving building designs could result in substantial benefits by reducing monthly utility bills, improving public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government of Mongolia aims to reduce heat losses from buildings by 20% by 2020 and 40% by 2030, compared to 2014 levels.

Energy efficient buildings are expected to play a large part in helping the government achieve these targets.

Mongolia has vast renewable resources for electricity production which could potentially be exported.

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Ulaanbaatar

How Deadly Pollution Became One of Mongolia's Biggest Problems

March 2 (Newsweek) It feels like dusk, but it's only 11 a.m. In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's rapidly expanding capital, light falls in a soft yellow haze over the centre and surrounding suburbs. Coal smoke fills the air, interspersed with a more acrid, throat-tickling taste of burning plastic. Ulaanbaatar is one of the world's most heavily polluted cities—in December it experienced pollution levels five times higher than in Beijing. For families, trying to survive in the world's coldest capital is expensive: many throw everything onto the family stove—old shoes, tyres, and scrap plastic.

The city's center has modern skyscrapers that look out over a sea of Soviet tower blocks. Beyond this brutalist crust are 180,000 gers, or yurts, home to the city's most recent arrivals. Here, tree stumps dot the landscape, felled by city residents for essential fuel.

Twenty percent of Mongolia's population have migrated to Ulaanbaatar over the past three decades. Weather patterns, called dzud, have forced many to leave their traditional way of life herding cattle and sheep and move to the capital. Dzud is an ultra cold-weather phenomenon believed to occur in five-yearly cycles, but has been increasing in frequency, especially in the Gobi Desert region of Mongolia. One million animals died last year due to the deep freeze, often buried neck-deep in snowdrifts. In 2009 nearly eight million animals were wiped out in one of Mongolia's worst ever winters, destroying the herds of 9,000 families. The dzuds ruin the farmers' livelihoods, and due to lack of social support systems, the only choice left is to move to Ulaanbaatar and find a job.

As more people arrive in the city in their gers, the number of stoves increases too, each belting out enough heat to cook three meals a day and heat the cold gers through winter. The pollution levels that come with them are proportionally huge: 80 percent of all pollution in Ulaanbaatar is caused by ger stoves, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The rest is caused by transportation (10 percent), thermal power plants (6 percent), and solid waste (4 percent).

The levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), part of what causes pollution to be damaging to human health, have been recorded as 80 times higher than WHO guidelines, and the organization predicts the situation will worsen over the next 10 years. On December 16 the level of PM2.5 peaked at 1,985 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m 3 ). The WHO recommends PM2.5 exposure of no more than 25µg/m 3 on average over a 24-hour period.

This winter, the rate of pollution-related pneumonia among children has been so high that the city's hospitals are full. It is now the second most common cause of mortality among Mongolian children, accounting for 15 percent of all deaths. A 2011 study by Ryan Allen, associate professor of environmental health at Simon Fraser University, found that one in 10 deaths in Ulaanbaatar can be attributed to air pollution. Researchers studying the impact of pollution estimate 29 percent of cardiopulmonary deaths, and 40 percent of lung cancer deaths in Mongolia are caused by pollution.

In a bid to fight the recent outbreak of influenza and pneumonia, the Central Military Hospital opened 50 beds for children to deal with overspill from other hospitals, while the mayor requested 30 new beds to be added to the Second Central Hospital in January. The Mongolian health also minister asked the mayor of Ulaanbaatar to supply hospitals with baby breathing apparatus and recommended kindergartens, universities and workplaces reduce their opening hours.  

Given a choice between keeping their families warm in a city where temperatures plunge to minus 30 degrees Celsius during winter, and keeping air pollution at bay, it's a no-brainer for many residents that the stoves need to stay alight.

However, this year, many in Ulaanbaatar started to raise their voices in protest at pollution levels, with two large demonstrations in the capital.

On January 28 thousands gathered in the city center carrying black balloons. Wearing face masks to protect them from the smog, the crowds marched in minus 20 degree temperatures waving banners reading, "Wake up and smell the smog." In this ex-Soviet city, protests are rare. Mongolians understand the seriousness of the situation.

According to professor Ryan Allen, Ulaanbaatar is at a natural disadvantage. "The city's geography doesn't help. [It] is in a river valley, which tends to trap pollution. The pollution then tends to stick around at ground level because it's sheltered by mountains so there isn't much wind," he tells Newsweek .

Air pollution has got significantly worse in the past decade he believes. "I've noticed a very dramatic shift. You can feel it in your throat, in your eyes, in your nose. The fundamental cause is without doubt the stoves in the gers. When you enter the ger districts it gets so much worse."

A ger house is perfect for a nomad. A large, tent-like structure, it is built using poles and felt, and can be collapsed in two hours. During the colder months, extra layers of felt are added to the gers to increase insulation. But there is little traditional about the structures encircling Ulaanbaatar's center. The ger districts have no running water or waste disposal, while educational and health centres are massively outnumbered by residents.

"These urban slums are killing people with their levels of pollution, and affecting pregnant women. From the perspective of an outsider, I would argue that they're very far from the traditional lifestyle where movements depend on the needs of the herd," says Allen.

As awareness of air pollution has risen, so has the push to do something about it. "Since 2014, real-time information about air quality has been available, and the World Health Organization has encouraged the government to inform the public real-time information about air quality through organizing…consultative meetings," says Delgermaa Vanya, a spokesperson for the WHO in Mongolia.

Local crowdfunding projects have tried to find short-term solutions, first by raising money and awareness of the problem, and then by distributing pollution masks and purifiers to ger dwellers. One campaign to buy and distribute 100 air purifiers to hospitals and schools raised $1,400 (£1,122) of a $37,000 target in five days, enough to buy approximately four machines.

However, Audrey de Nazelle, a lecturer in air pollution management at Imperial College London, says that masks are not a solution, and there is no quick fix. They filter out only the coarsest particles, leaving ultrafine particles to enter the system. So far there is no easy fix for city dwellers.

International organizations, such the World Bank, are working with the government to come up with longer-term solutions. To reduce air pollution to a manageable level, the Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project estimates the city needs to reduce current emissions by 94 percent. One of the ways to achieve this is to reduce stove emissions, by introducing energy-efficient electric stoves to households. The government has recently made steps to incentivize this—on January 1, it removed the night tariff paid by residents to use electric stoves, and cut further tariffs for residents looking to use electric heating.

Closed stoves could also help, says de Nazelle, as they are more efficient, even if not electric. "The problem with open stoves is that they're an open fire so combustion isn't complete. Close the stove up, and fuel is burned more efficiently. However, this presents a cultural challenge, as [the ger dwellers] may not know how to cook the recipes they've always cooked on these closed stoves."

In December 2016 Prime Minister Erdenebat told AKIpress : "We need to take effective action against air pollution. The government will support renewable energy usage, offer electricity tariff discount for households using electric heating, support the import and consumption of high-quality fuel and use natural gas fuel for transportation by spending air pollution charge properly."

Despite these promises, and the tariff changes, Ryan Allen is "discouraged by the rate of progress." He points to the challenge of installing new stoves and energy efficient boilers in places where there's no electricity, and says, "All the while, more people are moving into the city, so it feels like we're swimming upstream."

In the long-term, other cities in Mongolia need to be become attractive to encourage people to move there instead, he says. This will reduce the burden on Ulaanbaatar, and encourage potential newcomers to relocate, which will give the city a chance to improve air quality.

A longer-term goal is to move the population out of the gers, and into purpose built housing. In 2013 the Mongolian parliament approved a masterplan to redevelop some of the city's gers into apartments. However, the developments, have been put on hold due to a growing economic crisis.

Even with help from international organizations, reducing emissions by 93 percent is a big ask. It would seem that for now at least, there is no happy ending forecast for Ulaanbaatar. At the end of winter, air quality tends to improve as people have less need for their stoves, and public focus moves elsewhere. However, with the number of immigrants streaming into the city year-round, if the problem is ignored, it could become an even bigger crisis next winter.

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BCM Guideline for Companies to Combat Air Pollution

Ulaanbaatar, March 2 (Business Council of Mongolia) --

Purpose: This Guideline document is to help CEOs and business leaders quickly identify possible actions they can implement in their organizations against air pollution.

Resources for information on Air Pollution

Specific ACTIONS that companies can take NOW:

Educate employees about air pollution; invite guest speakers; encourage employees to share information with friends and family; discuss possible solutions with employees

  • Possible topics: damages and causes of air pollution, protection measures, energy consumption & efficiency; indoor air quality (smoking indoors); breastfeeding & healthy diet; vehicle idling; vehicle maintenance;

Work environment:

  • Improve energy efficiency in building/office to reduce energy consumption;
  • Plant & maintain trees; install air cleansing plants in the office;
  • Install HEPA air filter and air purifiers to tackle indoor air pollution (For an affordable solution, visit http://smartairfilters.com/mn/en/;
  • Install monitoring devices;

Work activities:

  • Ensure company vehicles are well maintained to reduce pollution emissions;
  • Drivers/employees instructed to not idle & to turn off vehicle engine when not moving;
  • Implement carpooling activities;
  • In polluted air, ensure employees wear pollution masks;

Social responsibility:

  • Focus CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives to tackle air pollution
  • Tackle air pollution in UB: UNICEF recommends focusing on areas where children are especially affected, and where urgent interventions need to be put in place to protect them as soon as possible. These include the provision of air filtration systems and electric heaters in kindergartens and schools in some of the worst-affected regions. For more information and guidance, please contact UNICEF for (Nicholas Rees, nrees@unicef.org; and Sunjidmaa, sjamba@unicef.org);
  • Run marketing/PR campaigns & contests that raise awareness about air pollution.

List of distributors for pollution masks:

  • BRB – 70119967, 99658555
  • BOX shop – 99062387, 75557007, 90878111 – Facebook: RZ утааны маск
  • CATD LLC – 11327308, 99114346
  • Mmarket – 75758001 – Facebook: Утааны Маск
  • MONOS Pharmacy – 99190858
  • Seven summits – 11317923
  • 3M Mongolia Premier Service - 9400-3088, 9910-3335
  • Utaanii Mask – 99906643 – Facebook: Утааны маск + Агаар шүүгч

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Thousand police officers keep 'Tsagaan sar' traffic flowing

March 2 (news.mn) Nearly one thousand traffic police officers have been worked during 'Tsagaan sar', Mongolia's traditional Lunar New Year Festival, which this year took place from 27th of February to 1st of March. Ulaanbaatar is increasingly suffering from traffic congestion; furthermore, many travelled to the countryside to spend the holiday with members of their families living in all parts of the country. It is not surprising that this dramatically increases the number of vehicles on countryside roads and causes congestion.

Students of the Law Enforcement University have been helping the police by taking part in traffic regulation during the days of this long holiday.

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Book Exchange Day to be held Saturday on Sukhbaatar Square

March 2 (news.mn) Mongolia has recently started organising a Book Exchange Day on Ulaanbaatar's main square. The event takes place on the first Saturday of every month from 12.00 p.m to 13.00 p.m. The third time the new initiative will be held will be on 4th of March.

The Book Exchange Day is being organised by Ulaanbaatar City Art and Culture as part of the 'Happy City' programme. The event aims to support the benefits of exchanging books and to promote the national library services. During the event, the National Library of Mongolia will present membership cards to the first 100 people.

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What can you eat with $10 in UB

March 2 (gogo.mn) In scope of Asia News Network project, we at GoGo Mongolia aimed to figure out what can you eat with US$10 (that is 25 thousand Mongolian Tugriks) in Mongolia. 

We visited following places;

  • Exe coffee shop, locates 1st floor in Exe office building for breakfast, 
  • Etugen university to try the "Piroshki" that most students have every day,
  • Cafe Bene for a coffee and a slice of cake,
  • Narantuul market to try some street food called "Banshtai tsai" ,
  • Hot pot cafe for "Huushuur", the cheapest, delicious and easy filling food of Mongolia, 
  • Cafe tree for a bottle of local beer. 

Of course, Mongolia has many different kind of food places, including Western style, Asian style and vegetarian food places too. 

Also you might have heard that most Mongolians eat lots of meat every day, even for breakfast. But in this video, we tried to mostly show you the local foods.

We hope you enjoy the video.

(VIDEO)

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Finding solutions to common problems facing young people

By B. Dulguun

March 2 (UB Post) The Metropolitan Youth Development Agency (MYDA) was established four months ago to bring focus to youth, who make up 34 percent of Ulaanbaatar's population, and help them deal with their problems.

Head of MYDA S.Sukh-Ochir was interviewed to find out if the agency has made strides to support employment of young people, and improve their health education, as promised when the agency was opened. 

MYDA was founded as a form of investment toward young people, who are vital to the future of Mongolia. What have you accomplished so far?

MYDA was established in 2016 in accordance with the Government Resolution No.8 and Ulaanbaatar Mayor's A 825 directive. Until now, there wasn't a government organization that manages youth development issues. This puts a tremendous amount of responsibility on our shoulders. We planned measures for young people all over Mongolia, not just for those living in Ulaanbaatar.

Our first project is "Ikh Khotiin Soyol", which features 24 series of 40-minute videos that will change attitudes of youngsters and help them develop a correct city lifestyle and culture. We've planned more than 40 measures for 2017, which we will carry out on different months this year. We've been drafting a policy for young people in Ulaanbaatar since December 2016. In other words, our staff is working hard to have a youth development program approved. The main objective of the program is to nurture creative, positive, proactive, well-mannered, helpful and responsible young people who contribute to society.

The places where young people can hang out and spend their leisure time is very limited in Ulaanbaatar. Are you doing anything to resolve this issue?

As the economy is in a bad shape, we're trying to spend the minimum amount of funds on our projects to save on the (city) budget. One of the main targets in the 2016-2020 Ulaanbaatar Mayor's Action Plan is infrastructure issues for creating new places where young people can spend quality and productive leisure time. Within the framework of this target, government and nongovernment organizations operating in the capital will cooperate with the private sector.

We started surveying two districts to determine if it's possible to build a youth development park as part of a project aimed to improve infrastructure in ger areas. In particular, we're hoping to create favorable conditions for sports during the winter and planting trees by building a youth development park at the National Garden Park.

MYDA is also working to establish a youth center. This will enable youngsters to meet new people, exchange experience with them, and spend their free time more productively. We must do whatever we can with the resources we already have rather than building new facilities with excessive spending of funds from the city or state budget. Young people might learn something from this and if they do, it will become a form of investment to their knowledge, intelligence, and attitude.

Several organizations dedicated to helping young adults become productive members of society have agreed to launch five to seven hobby clubs in 2017. Basically, our MYDA is opening a place where young people with the same interests, such as hard rock music or metal can gather. We welcome any group of people passionate about anything.

You mentioned surveying two districts for building youth development parks. Exactly which two districts are you surveying? Can you share details about this project?

This matter hasn't been finalized yet. Basketball and football courts, as well as parks, are built in the middle of cities and buildings in other countries. It gives a nice impression of being in the middle of a forest without having to actually leave the city. We're looking at ways to bring this kind of scenery to Ulaanbaatar, which needs to be suitable for Mongolia's climate and special conditions. We're still researching this at the moment. We will involve mainly young people when we build the park.

Most children are spending the majority of their time at PC gaming centers, bringing about negative influence in society. How do you plan to stop children from going to gaming centers?

This year, MYDA is going to organize workshops and seminars aimed to prevent children and young adults from developing bad habits, becoming involved in crimes, and going on the wrong path. I've contrived several measures and activities for not only stopping children from getting addicted to PC games but from getting hooked to dangerous and harmful addiction, which could distance them from human interactions.

MYDA is preparing a room equipped with 10 computers at the agency in an attempt to start a small IT business with people who play PC games. In addition, we're developing directives for limiting a child's stay at gaming centers to three hours a day.

It seems that drug use among young adults is increasing lately. Is there a way to prevent them from taking drugs?

The issue of drugs has been put together with "toxic habits" in the 2017 plan. MYDA will work with the General Police Department, Ulaanbaatar Police Department, and district police departments to get the exact number on this criminal offense. Based on our findings, we will determine a strategy for combating drug use and launch an anti-drugs campaign.

One of the 24 series of "Ikh Khotiin Soyol" is about why people use drugs and ways to stop them. We must fundamentally study why young people indulge in drugs. It's important to thoroughly research first if we want to find a solution to this issue.

The gap between urban and rural settlements was very big in the 1970s. Now, nearly half the population of Mongolia lives in the capital. Some people say the city is being heavily influenced by rural cultures. What has MYDA planned for educating young people and setting them on the right path?

It requires time to change a trend that has already set in. The media plays a huge role in fixing something that has been kept for many years. There's a set of rules and laws city residents have to follow regarding sanitation and hygiene.  A program will be produced for raising awareness about these laws and helping people adjust to city life and rules.

Have you conducted a survey on unemployed young people? What are you doing to help these people find jobs and get stable income?

The Ulaanbaatar Mayor's Action Plan specifies to ensure that each household has at least one person with a job. Through a survey on labor issues of young people, we found that a group of people choose to stay unemployed because they're unsatisfied with the job they get while another group can't find jobs in line with their profession. We're going to organize two career fairs so that we can promote youth employment. In particular, a job fair for young people with no work experience will be held in May. The fair is for people who just graduated and have no work experience and those who recently finished vocational education and training schools. Most jobs require work experience. Therefore, we will focus on supporting people who lack experience.

In fall, a career fair will be organized for young people who have work experience and those who graduated abroad. We also plan to give advice to high school seniors. We will raise one of their concerns and give them the correct understanding on whether they need to enter a university.

At present, there are 205,000 students studying in university and college in Ulaanbaatar. It'll be hard for most of them to find jobs after graduating. Instead of chasing after a diploma, they should be trying to get a trade apprenticeship and not allow foreigners to take up this huge job opportunity.

Moreover, we'll support young people who want to introduce a new product to the market.

There are young people living with disabilities. What do you plan to do for them?

To promote employment of young adults living with disabilities, MYDA is encouraging them to start doing intellectual jobs aside from engaging in arts and craft production. There's an article in the Labor Law that states that public and private organizations with more than 25 employees must employ at least one person living with a disability. State agencies operating in Ulaanbaatar are calling on the Mayor's Office to strengthen the implementation of that regulation.

How efficiently does the MYDA use social media?

There are 700,000 active Facebook users in Mongolia. Hence, we share our plans and measures through social media. We will spread positive solutions for various issues through the internet as well.

We will make a program on the proper way to use the internet and digital world. We're striving to run a training workshop with media organizations about how to distribute correct information through the internet.

Is there anything you'd like to tell young people?

Our agency is open for all of you. If there's a problem, don't hesitate to contact us because we'll always be ready for anything. Don't wait for an opportunity, find it yourself and seize it when you do. We all need to be positive to be able to become the real owners of our city and develop it further – treat the city like it's our home!

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Diplomacy

Mongolian Ambassador, former PM S.Bayar presents credentials to Queen Elizabeth

Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ On March 1, S.Bayar Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland presented his diplomatic credentials to the Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham Palace.

Mongolia and the United Kingdom established diplomatic relations in 1963. Ambassador S.Bayar is the 13th Mongolian Ambassador to the UK, who presented diplomatic credentials since the establishment of the diplomatic relations.  

Following the ceremony to present diplomatic credentials, Ambassador S.Bayar introduced the staff of the Embassy of Mongolia in London to the Queen Elizabeth II and talked about bilateral relations and collaboration between Mongolia and the UK.

Previously, Ambassador S.Bayar served as an Ambassador of Mongolia to the Russian Federation and is 25th Prime Minister of Mongolia. 

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Amb. John Langtry: Governments Are Not Good at Business

Australian Ambassador John Langtry's interview for the Mongolian Mining Journal (Feb 2017)

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Culture & Society

1,500 Mongolians permitted entry to South Korea under government employment contract

March 2 (UB Post) The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is giving 1,500 people the chance to establish employment contracts and work in South Korea, agreed to under a memorandum signed by the Government of Mongolia and South Korea's Ministry of Employment and Labor

Those interested in the offer can apply for the work program at the ministry's headquarters. Korean language proficiency tests will be administered at district and provincial labor departments on March 6, 7, and 9, scheduled to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 39, have basic Korean language speaking and reading skills, and must not have a criminal record or have been deported from South Korea in the past.

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Mongolia's guardian dogs help preserve steppe ecology

Native breeds protect livestock, reducing the need to kill predators

ULAANBAATAR, March 2 (Nikkei Asian Review) Bruce Elfstrom got a firsthand look at the fragility of Mongolian nomads' existence while producing a documentary in 2004.

Elfstrom, a biologist and outdoor adventurer, was camping with a film crew and some nomadic herder families on the vast steppes of rural Mongolia. He was awakened one freezing, star-filled night by the sound of slaughter. A wolf pack had attacked, killing 17 horses and 30 other animals.

Such losses are devastating but common for Mongolian nomads, who maintain a millennia-old lifestyle of small family units residing in mobile yurts and are dependent for subsistence on livestock -- traditionally horses, camels, yaks, sheep and goats.

Livestock predation can ruin nomadic families, which often retaliate by hunting the culprits -- primarily gray wolves, lynx and snow leopards. High-powered rifles and off-road vehicles have greatly increased the capabilities of nomad hunters in recent years, leaving predator populations under threat. Conservationists estimate, for instance, that only 500 to 1,000 snow leopards survive in Mongolia, putting them on the endangered species list.

Wolves are by far the biggest threat to livestock, and the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society has reported that they are "almost certainly declining in number." A wolf pelt and body parts can command more than $300 in China, further incentivizing retaliatory killings.

The loss of livestock by struggling herders shocked Elfstrom, as did the threat posed by the wolves. But as a conservationist, he thought to himself, "How can I fix it?"

The solution to both livestock predation and retribution hunting, Elfstrom soon discovered, was already available and had long been part of the nomadic lifestyle: Mongolian bankhar livestock guardian dogs.

"It's a Mongolian solution for a Mongolian problem, based on ancient Mongolian tradition," he said.

DETERRING PREDATION 

Bankhar dogs, native to Mongolia, are considered livestock guardians -- one of many such breeds developed over the centuries. The bankhar and breeds such as the Great Pyrenees and the Anatolian Shepherd have proved highly effective in deterring predation and reducing the need for lethal control of predators in places ranging from South Africa and Australia to the U.S.

Livestock losses to predation often decline by at least 80%, or are even eliminated, following the introduction of guardian dogs.

Mongolian lore indicates that bankhar dogs have long been used as livestock guardians. However, the turmoil created by 70 years of collectivization and modernization, imposed on nomadic communities by the Soviet Union and its Mongolian proxies, resulted in the loss of vital traditional knowledge, including the capabilities required to train and employ bankhar dogs.

According to Mongolian herders and field biologists, the dogs were actively destroyed under communist rule because of a misconception that they spread disease to livestock. The dogs survived only in the most isolated herding communities.

To reintroduce the canines to nomads around Mongolia, Elfstrom raised $40,000 in seed money in 2011 through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, and added a larger sum of his own to establish the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project. The initiative located 10 bankhar dogs living with isolated herders around Mongolia, and those animals form the core breeding population.

Zoe Lieb, a conservation biologist and anthropologist who took over the program in Mongolia in November, said restoring the breed is a priority. The project has so far reared nearly 40 puppies, most of which have been deployed as livestock guardian dogs or are in training.

To increase its impact, the project has also teamed up with several domestic and international conservation organizations.

The Wildlife Conservation Society recently began working with the project as part of its Sustainable and Wildlife-friendly Cashmere Project, which partners with global luxury brands to source cashmere wool from herders who have pledged to engage in sustainable herding practices. These include refraining from lethal control of predation.

"We are definitely taking a bet" on the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project, said Onon Bayasgalan, the sustainable enterprise officer for WCS Mongolia. "Supporting our bet is that we have a history of guardian dogs here," she said. "That's a good foundation to work off."

Bankhar dogs can also mitigate desertification, which has increased in recent years because herders now primarily raise goats for cashmere wool to sell on the open market. Goats have voracious appetites and damage pastures more than other livestock, resulting in pasture depletion and increasing desertification. The Gobi Desert is estimated to be growing at 3,000 sq. km a year, with vast sandstorms contributing to smog levels throughout East Asia. Pasture productivity has deteriorated.

SMALLER HERDS 

Three times as many goats now roam Mongolia's steppes as in the 1980s, and herders are keeping ever-larger livestock herds as a hedge against predation and weather-related losses. But reducing the risk of livestock losses can spur herders to keep smaller herds, in the expectation that more will survive.

Further, the use of the dogs encourages predators to focus on natural prey, such as the Asiatic wild ass and Mongolian gazelle. The increased threat encourages these wild ungulates to herd and graze in more compact units, helping reduce pasture damage.

"This one dog, as a tool, can satisfy a number of different things," Elfstrom said, "including ecological balance, sustainability, security, as well as cultural aspects."

The use of bankhar dogs, however, will not address all of Mongolia's looming ecological threats. Poaching has had a dramatic impact on wildlife populations in the country.

According to Mongolian government estimates cited by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the population of critically endangered saiga antelope fell by 85% to just 800 animals during a five-year period in the late 1990s. The number of red deer plummeted by 92% between the 1980s and early 2000s, and argali mountain sheep numbers dropped by 75% in roughly the same period. The loss of prey species is likely pushing predators to hunt livestock, further exacerbating threats to predator populations.

Meanwhile, the effects of climate change are already being felt in Mongolia, with colder and drier winters, falling water tables and more violent storms.

Despite its limitations, the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project is showing tangible results. Elfstrom said herders have seen predation losses fall from between 20 and 80 sheep a year to fewer than 10.

Elfstrom envisions one day putting Mongolian management in charge of the project and hopes that the use of bankhar dogs will become part of normal herding practices.

"Once that momentum builds and it's in the hands of Mongolians," he said, "it will cause a chain of emulations that will create a healthier ecology and economy."

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Breaking waste picker stereotypes with 'Baatar'

March 2 (UB Post) Space Entertainment is presenting "Baatar" (Hero), a docudrama inspired by the true story of D.Khurelbaatar, who changed his life of picking through waste for the better.

People living on the street and picking through trash are condemned as pathetic and lazy, but "Baatar" documentary shines a spotlight onto the real life struggles of people living on the street, showing that there's more to their life than meets the eye. "Baatar" is expected to be featured at numerous prestigious festivals, according to producer E.Temuulen.

E.Temuulen spoke more about the film's inspiration  in an extensive interview about "Baatar".

Why did you decide to film a docudrama on the lives of waste pickers? How did you find the protagonist?

President of the National Recycling Association D.Byambasaikhan told me about D.Khurelbaatar, who used to pick waste and trash from the streets, but found success and is now living well. He proposed that I make a film about this. Then I met with D.Khurelbaatar, wrote a script based on his life, and started filming it immediately. He might have been a waste picker, but now he owns two centers that collect secondary raw materials and he recently opened a new center, which is operated by four to five recovering alcoholics.

Do most people view them as "pathetic" individuals?

This is an abandoned world that we don't know much about. It was very difficult for us (the production team) to go into this society. Seeing them broke my heart. People thoughtlessly throw away trash, but waste pickers assort our garbage with their bare hands and take heavy sacks full of trash to collection centers all four seasons of the year. They do ecologically beneficial tasks for free. They don't get much money in exchange for their huge sacks. They get 2,000 MNT per sack at most. They still make ends meet with what little they earn.

Practically everyone, including teachers, students and politicians, make demonstrations, but this group of people never speaks up for themselves. Yet, we blame, criticize and judge them as pathetic individual when they've done nothing wrong.

People say they'll never become like them but anything can happen in life. Instead of criticizing, we should encourage them.

How did the protagonist improve his life?

No one helped or gave D.Khurelbaatar a home. Someone told him to stop drinking and that there was a vacant job. That person gave hope to D.Khurelbaatar.

I asked him if he was ashamed during a conversation because I would have been if I'd been covered in mud, gotten cursed on the street, and been spit on the face like him. Even if I'd changed that life, I would be embarrassed to talk about it. However, he showed me where he collapsed and got kicked in the face, and told me that he walked away smiling. He said that he can now encourage others because he wasn't ashamed back then. His words hit me hard as most people choose to hide their flaws and bad sides.

Do you think the society has forgotten and abandoned these people?

I don't know if politicians ignore them because of their bad image or because they don't know about them.

According to a national census, there are around 300 people who make ends meet by picking trash. They might've had ID cards once. When we went to survey collection centers, there were around 3,000 people from a single district. Based on this, there are roughly 20,000 people living as waste pickers in Ulaanbaatar's nine districts. These people might not be able to vote because they lost or don't have ID cards or because they don't think their vote is important. Still, 20,000 is a big number. We must support and encourage these people.

What was it like to meet waste pickers?

Lots of things hurt me while filming. There were women among them too. Their hands had calluses and blisters from picking wastes. Even when blood was dripping from their hand, they just licked it and continued picking trash.

I don't know these people's lives. I looked at them from a slightly different perspective and regarded them as another human being instead of judging them as bad people. Then I thought maybe these people are doing something really beneficial for us and lessening ecological problems little by little.

What challenges did you face while filming?

It was very hard to film people carrying sacks because they felt self-conscious in front of the camera. They ran away from us and even chased us away. They agreed to talk with us in exchange for a cigarette or something else. We tried to handle them as well as we could.

We started filming when the coldest period of winter began so the camera froze, and actors and team members got frost bites. Some couldn't feel their hands or legs. These things are something they must overcome though. Rather than being difficult, it was actually fun. Our team wants to do another film about these people.

Why did you name the docudrama "Baatar"?

You, me, or anyone else can become a hero. Nowadays, children think heroes are people like Spiderman and Hulk, or prominent figures like Chinggis Khaan, D.Sukhbaatar, Olympic medalists and world champions. They are heroes for sure, but the concept of a hero has become very narrow. A hero is victory. Similar to how all heroes started off as ordinary people, we can overcome challenges and live like heroes. The society needs encouragement to help lost people reach their goals.

We showed the docudrama at nursing homes, prisons and military units before the premier. Apparently, suicide attempts are common in jails and prisons because most prisoners have lost the will to live. Even so, these people have thousands of tomorrows. You can lose or make a mistake but you can fix it. This is the message I want to give to others.

Alcoholism is a serious issue in the society. You can drink, but think before drinking. Is it really the best option? We try to put the blame on alcohol producers or someone else. Instead of blaming others, be careful and responsible for your own actions.

We raised this broad topic and tried to find the light within it. We found D.Khurelbaatar from it. He's a true hero. He drank alcohol and lived unhappily for many years, but managed to find the correct path and is guiding others to success. It's heroic to change others' lives. I hope other young people change their lives and become their own heroes. This is our cry to society.

It's difficult to make people open up about themselves. While conversing with waste pickers, were you able to find out why they ended up picking trash?

There were people who used to be exceptional artists, police officers and economists among waste pickers. Like many others, they stumbled in life. They talked about their problems. Women shared very sensitive and hard issues. I can't talk about the details because I promised them that I wouldn't reveal it to others.

I understood one thing while talking to so many of them. Anything can happen in life. It's wrong to blame people before trying to understand them. People avoid or go around waste pickers when they're just walking on the street. When I asked them why they isolate themselves from society, they said "We don't isolate ourselves from society. Society isolates us. I'm scared to go around public areas and Sukhbaatar Square". Social attitude impacts them greatly. When someone tells them it's their fault, instead of defending themselves, they succumb to the idea that they are at fault.

One of them said that they can't look at people's eyes because it's obvious what they're thinking while looking at them. Another said they can't go into shops to buy bread because they're chased away from public areas. They're humans – they need to eat too.

I was filming one of them when they tried to go into a pharmacy but a guard stopped him because he thought he was trying to steal. People living on the street need medicine as well. We tried to take them to a restaurant but the managers didn't allow it.

The society discriminates these people. If they aren't disregarded so much, they might wash their clothes and shower before going to a store. It could give them hope that they could live like normal people. The negative stereotype in society is a huge issue in and of itself.

What do you hope to tell viewers through "Baatar"?

I hope viewers become encouraged. Have faith in the thousands of tomorrows to come. Never give up. Be strong, courageous and fight again and again.

"Baatar" is a nonprofit film. Isn't this risky for your film crew?

This is the start of Space Entertainment's projects for raising social awareness. The docudrama will be showcased in cinemas for free only once. Some people questioned why we're doing something so unprofitable and who'd watch a docudrama. In my opinion, we must shoulder the social responsibility. Arts and culture guide the society. It becomes intellectual investment for us. Our team agreed to carry out the project because we consider it very important for artists to produce things beneficial to society and the public.

I'm very grateful to everyone who participated in the filming of "Baatar". It costs 20 to 40 million MNT to produce a docudrama. Our crew worked day and night without salary and poured all their efforts into making this film. Forty of us united under a single goal. I'm very pleased with that. The names of people featured in the film have been listed on the poster, because it's the product of everyone in Space Entertainment.

Link to interview

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Nature & Environment

4.1 magnitude earthquake shakes Selenge's Zuunkharaa

March 2 (news.mn) Earlier today (2nd of March) an earthquake occurred in the Mandal soum (district) of the Selenge province in northern Mongolia. According to The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), "the 4.1 magnitude earthquake occurred in the soum's administrative centre Zuunkharaa at 08.07 a.m. The epicentre was 6 km away from the town". According to the information source, small tremors was felt through the city. Zuunkharaa is located 200 km north of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.

Link to article

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Sports

Mongolian 'King Tug' defeats Philippine 'Disaster' Gemino for 8-0, climbs to world 27th

March 2 (news.mn) N.Tugstsogt, 24, the silver medalist from the World Championships and the Olympics has won his eighth professional fight with super bantamweight Jhon Gemino, 'The Disaster' from the Philippines on 26th of February.

Boxer N.Tugstogt, was nicknamed 'King Tug', after he entered professional boxing in 2006. He has won all his previous fight by knockout, and is currently ranked at the 27th place among 1,514 bantamweight boxers. Previously, N.Tugstsogt ranked 73rd. If "King Tug" wins all the next fights, he will fight for Boxing Championship Belt at the end of the 2017.

Link to article

Related:

'King Tug' N.Tugstsogt now 27th in world rankingMontsame, March 2

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Art & Entertainment

Two Mongolians reach finals of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2017

March 2 (news.mn) BBC Cardiff Singer of the World has announced the names of the 20 singers who will compete in the televised finals in June 2017. Among them are two Mongolians, namely, the baritone G.Ariunbaatar, who is a Soloist of the Mariinsky Theatre of Russia and Honoured State Artist of Mongolia along with tenor B.Batjargal who is a soloist of the Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Mongolia.

The televised finals are split into four rounds, in which finalists will perform programmes of operatic and concert works, accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera.

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World was established in 1983 by BBC Wales, and has since become one of the most popular classical music competitions in the world. The winner of the main prize will receive £15,000 and the Cardiff Trophy, while the World Song Prize, awarded to the best singer of Lieder and other songs, carries a £7,000 prize and trophy.

Link to article

Related:

Two Mongolians make final of BBC Cardiff Singer of the Worldnews.mn, March 2

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Mongolia's 'Khusugtun' to perform tomorrow at UN

March 2 (news.mn) 'Khusugtun', internationally recognized Mongolian ethnic group is about to commence a concert tour of Canada and the USA. The group's first venue, tomorrow 3rd of March, will be the United Nations in New York. The tour concert is organized by www.miye.mn in cooperation with the Khusugtun band for the promoting Mongolian tradition and history to the world.

The band will perform concerts in the following 10 cities:

  • 5th of March in Toronto, Canada
  • 6th of March in Montreal, Canada
  • 10th of March in New York, USA
  • 12th of March in Washington D.C., USA
  • 18-19th of March in Chicago, USA
  • 20th of March in Seattle, USA
  • 21th of March in Vancouver, Canada
  • 24th of March in Berkeley, USA
  • 25th of March in Mill Valley, USA
  • 26th of March in Los-Angeles, USA.

Link to article

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Mongolian folk music band Khusugtun playing in NY's Rubin Museum on March 10

Date: MARCH 10, 6:30 - 9:00 PM 

Advance Tickets: $30.00

Day of: $35.00

Members Advance: $27.00

Members Day of : $31.50

Khusugtun is an internationally recognized band that performs traditional music from Mongolia and will perform two concerts on March 10. The first will be at 6:30 p.m. and the second at 9:00 p.m. They are especially renowned for their a capella arrangements using "khöömei" or "throat-singing," which is an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity from Mongolia.

About the band

Khusugtun formed in 2008 when its members were working together at the National Song and Dance Ensemble. Over the past eight years, the six musicians have produced numerous works that feature elements of Western classical music and musical instruments and techniques that form part of Mongolia's intangible cultural heritage, including the horsehead fiddle, zither, flute, lute, open-ended flute, various jaw harps, and throat-singing.

Link to event

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Travel

I Documented Mongolia's Mystical Tsaatan Reindeer People

March 2 (GoGo Mongolia) Tsaatans, known as Reindeer Herder, live in the Khuvsgul Province, Northern Part of Mongolia which is near the border with Russia. Their lives are divided into two different parts which are East and West. It is said that there are approximately 500 tsaatans living in a Tsagaannuur soum.

More info: toursmongolia.com

The tribal leader of east Taiga is Mr. Ganbaa and his wife Ms. Purvee and we were visited while they were in hibernation. The first day we arrived, we had a talk with leader Ganbaa about the life of taiga, at his home. While we were talking, he said that this year there are full of snows in taiga, and also he said sometimes they come together in the same place to share the latest news of Ulaanbaatar city and other interesting news.

Link to photo essay

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