10 Aug 2014 06:51
Although 40% of Mongolians still live as nomadic herders, democracy, market capitalism and a resources boom catapulted the Mongolian economy to achieve the world’s fastest growth in 2011 with GDP growth of 17.3%. Trillions of dollars of natural resources lie beneath the steppes, grasslands and deserts of Mongolia. It possesses enough coal, copper, gold, uranium, silver, fluorite and other minerals to make every Mongolian wealthy.
In this decade of economic growth, hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders have abandoned their traditional way of life and moved into the Ger District: a tent slum in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. The impoverished area has no running water, little waste collection and an unemployment rate around 30%. However, it was not the country's economic growth that has lured former nomads to the city. These former nomads are climate refugees.
During the cruel winter of 2009-10, nomadic herders fell victim to the dreaded "zud," a weather phenomenon in which snow is frozen solid by temperatures as low as -48C. Eight and a half million cows, horses, goats, sheep and camels starved and froze to death during an extreme 55 day cold spell.
Climate change scientists have noted more frequent "zuds" and some of the most extreme weather conditions seen in Mongolia in a thousand years. Nomadic herding traditions that are integral to Mongolian life and culture are facing their greatest challenge. In the mean time, life in the Ger District is a struggle just to get by.