The landlocked country of Mongolia sparks certain images in the mind—rolling hills with horses against a picturesque backdrop.
However, the East Asian country is facing a threat that will change its landscape: climate change.
Rapid growth of a coal-fired economy often leads to environmental degradation, and Mongolia is a case in point.
Ulziikhutag Jigjid, 49, is a member of a 10-person group in the Khan-Uul district on the outskirts of Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar, which is producing brooms, chairs, containers, and other handmade products from discarded soda and juice containers.
Decades of international and local collaboration have brought the Tahki or Asian Wild Horse back from the brink of extinction and reintroduced herds to Mongolia’s Gobi desert and grasslands. However, the country’s other wild equine - the Mongolian Wild Ass or Khulan - is fast disappearing.
Mongolia, 90 percent dependent on fuel imports from Russia and vulnerable to price hikes, is seeking to develop its oil shale deposits of at least 800 billion tons.
Ochir Damchaa chuckles as he drives his second-hand Toyota sedan through the alleyways of Nalaikh, a ramshackle town 35 kilometres east of Ulaanbaatar: “There’re just two kinds of jobs here: drive a taxi, or dig coal.”
Tsetseghkorol, a Mongolian herder, stares out nostalgically at the Orkhon River, the longest in the country.
Genghis Khan knew about hard times. The founder of the Mongol Empire, which spanned most of Eurasia until roughly 1227, Genghis and his clan had to survive on their wits and natural surroundings, often resorting to meals of “green leafy things” when food was scarce.
When the food-strapped Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) appealed to the Mongolian government for food last month, it signaled a major turning point in the public image of this Central Asian country, which has long struggled to feed its own population of three million.
The United States has refused to vote for involvement by the World Bank Group in a massive but controversial mining project in Mongolia.
The Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in the southern Gobi desert in Mongolia has become a symbol of a looming crisis: a limited water supply that could be exhausted within a decade, seriously threatening the lives and livelihoods of the local population.
Tucked away from the scrutiny of civil society, Mongolia’s jails epitomise the limits of democracy in this county of 2.8 million people, where marginalised members of society often bear the brunt of a corrupt and under-resourced justice system.
If all goes as envisioned on Jun. 28, Mongolia's parliament will no longer be a male bastion.