From Nomads to Settlers in the City: the Case of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

From Nomads to Settlers in the City: the Case of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar as a Water Sensitive City? - An analysis from a feminist urban political ecology approach.

This blog examines the case study of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia based on informations provided by WSC student, Khulan Ds, Mongolia at UNESCO-IHE.

mong bl.pngThe presentation gave us an estimation about life in the city of Ulaanbaatar, a city with a population around; 1.3 million people most of whom previously lived a nomadic life. The city has also harsh climatic conditions (-40 degree Celsius in winter). Environmental degradation, climate change issues and unequal development, especially in Ger areas (where nomad people (peri-urban communities) live in temporary tents houses

The city has also harsh climatic conditions (-40 degree Celsius in winter). Environmental degradation, climate change issues and unequal development, especially in Ger areas (where nomad people (peri-urban communities) live in temporary tents houses in the outskirts of major cities in Mongolia) were analysed during Khulan’s presentation.

Analysing the case from Water Sensitive Cities approach Khulan’s presentation made five major recommendations: to integrate water cycle management, climate adoption strategies, public participation, green infrastructure technologies and resilient buildings in Ulaanbaatar. The presentation also stated that, a water sensitive approach to urban development could minimise the stress on conventional water systems. The vision of the water sensitive cities is that cities should be liveable, sustainable and resilient and this can be achieved through infrastructural interventions.

In this blog, I argue that the quality of life in the city differs greatly amongst all its residents. Hence, a first step towards more sustainable water cities should be to ensure the basic needs of all citizens. Water is always distributed in close relation with different power divisions of the society based on gender, class and sometimes religion (Truelove, 2011). In this context, a feminist urban political ecology framework will be used to examine the urban water inequality in Ulaanbaatar city and the challenges faced by people, especially women and minors and their daily practices. I will describe their embodied experiences in the struggle to access water and sanitation services (Truelove, 2011).

Feminist Urban Political Ecology framework mainly emphasises on the way in which social and environmental process produces inequalities (Truelove, 2011). It also says that environmental problems in the cities are shaped by social processes and examines the numerous social differences within a family or society such as gender, class and other social power dynamics that are reproduced through everyday water practices (Truelove, 2011).

Hence, a wider understanding of everyday water practices and different scale of analysis is very important to solve water problems. In relation to the water sensitive cities approach, I argue that a uniform set of proposed solutions for addressing water challenges are not enough as water issues are very diverse from one place to another. 

Urbanisation and challenges in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Urbanisation is not only about infrastructural growth, movement of people from rural to urban areas and struggling for survival, but it is also a historical and global process that is taking place everywhere on the planet (Professor Neil Brenner). We live in this urbanised set up, but there are multiple angles of this transformation process and we should look for those facets as well (Prof Neil Brenner).

Brenner, talks about the way in which, the environment, the countryside and vacant lands are becoming transformed to support this urbanisation in process that are not similar or smooth everywhere and for everyone. It can be deeply heterogeneous. In this vein, Mongolia, a country of nomad’s people has been facing this transformation since the twenty first century. When people started moving towards the cities and gave up their nomads life to hold the city of Ulaanbaatar‘s growth and progress (WSC presentation).

The fall of Russian communalism and market reforms had a larger impact on Magnolia and nomad’s, who were travelling around and living in movable houses started settling in apartments in the city of Ulaanbaatar(Bruun & Narangoa, 2011). 

SDG number 11 is focussed on cities “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”‘(UN-habitat, 2015)1. Thus, Cities are now the focus of all developmental activities and attention; cities are being seen as the engine of growth and the main site to secure future challenges that are caused by different social-environmental process (Dr. Joan Clos –UN-HABITATE). However, the cities rarely host homogenous population, as there is not a consistent resource flow amongst the different sections of the society. Cities are always shaped or reshaped at different scales that is constitutively uneven, connecting some spaces and disconnect others and a direction of seeing the complex urbanisation process that can be extremely odd and deeply unfair(Angelo & Wachsmuth, 2015). 

The rapid urbanisation and commercialisation in Mongolia largely affected the pastoral way of life, culture, tradition but also the ecology. Traditional pastoralism was not very important for the state which was focussed on industrialisation (Bruun & Narangoa, 2011).Pastoralism was considered inadequate to generate the capital for the country’s growth. This contributed to uneven growth some got the opportunity for prosperous life and social progress and some left behind with their pastoral way of life but did not find a formal alternative(Bruun & Narangoa, 2011).

Consequently, the nomads life or pastoralism became a glorious past and deprived of pastoral areas, former nomads built peri-urban settlements(Bruun & Narangoa, 2011). These pastoral people live in the outskirts of the largest cities commonly known as “Ger” areas and are mostly dependant on livestock or agricultural that is very hard due to the harsh winter and lack of support from the central government 2 (global 

Read the full blog in the attached document.