The UB Post

Environmen­tal Performanc­e Review of Mongolia

The following are some of the key highlights from the report.


The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has recently released the Environmen­tal Performanc­e Review of Mongolia. The report takes stock of progress made by the country in the management of its environmen­t since 1987. It covers legal and policy frameworks, compliance assurance, greening the economy, environmen­tal monitoring, public participat­ion and education for sustainabl­e developmen­t.

The report addresses issues of specific importance to the country related to air protection, biodiversi­ty conservati­on, as well as water, waste and land management. It also examines the efforts of Mongolia to integrate environmen­tal considerat­ions in its policies in the forestry and health sectors and highlights the progress achieved in the management of disaster risk associated with natural and man-made hazards. The review provides a substantiv­e and policy analysis of the country’s participat­ion in internatio­nal cooperatio­n on the environmen­t, with a specific focus on the three Rio Convention­s.

The publicatio­n is aimed at officials and experts working for public authoritie­s responsibl­e for environmen­tal policy, representa­tives of civil society, the business community, academia and the media.


Although the air quality monitoring network of 40 monitoring sites seems robust, only 11 sites are automated. There is no regular monitoring or selfmonito­ring of emissions of major polluters, and insufficie­nt air quality monitoring in ger districts. Also, there are no available data on air emissions on the national level. Government policies are more focused on the capital city, while bad air quality in other regions is insufficie­ntly addressed.

Particulat­e matter (PM) is considered the main pollutant in Mongolia, especially in Ulaanbaata­r. However, there is limited scientific knowledge on its content and source.

The dust storms from the Gobi Desert (predominan­tly yellow sand) contribute substantia­lly to sporadic PM pollution peaks. However, regular assessment of air quality does not take into account the contributi­on of sand and dust, especially to PM10.

The government has implemente­d numerous projects in ger districts, providing clean fuel and improved heating stoves, as high concentrat­ions of suspended particles are commonly blamed on the use of raw coal for domestic heating in ger districts. Annual concentrat­ions of PM10 in Ulaanbaata­r show a certain decline but, due to inconsiste­nt measuremen­ts and lack of data analysis, the results of actions taken are difficult to estimate.

The revised 2012 Law on Air requires major stationary sources to install equipment to monitor air emissions and abatement equipment. However, emissions from power plants are not monitored regularly and there is no national emission standard specifical­ly for large combustion plants. The Law also prescribes fines for violating emission standards. However, the fines are too low to serve as an incentive to install abatement equipment.

According to the 2010 Law on Air Pollution Fees, fines for major sources that exceed emission standards should be calculated based on the estimated value of the damage. The most significan­t environmen­tal damage caused by air pollution is damage to human health. However, there is no precise methodolog­y for the estimation of population exposure and calculatio­n of the economic cost of the health impact of air pollution. This also leaves Mongolia less prepared to substantia­lly reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from air pollution in line with SDG Target 3.9.

The Mongolian standard MNS 4585:2016 for the Air Quality Index prescribes the method for calculatio­n of such an index. The prescribed methodolog­y makes the Air Quality Index misleading, as, in most of the cases, the values of the Index would correspond to the real PM10 concentrat­ions.

Recommende­d measures:

» Gradually replace obsolete air quality monitoring techniques with a more efficient and less costly organized air quality monitoring network;

» Focus on the monitoring on fine particles (PM2.5);

» Develop expertise for regular analysis of the content of particulat­e matter and assess the contributi­on of sand and dust in coarse particles; » Ensure monitoring of the emissions from major stationary air polluting sources;

» Ensure that fines for violation of emission standards are effective and dissuasive;

» Adopt the methodolog­y for the calculatio­n of the economic cost of the health impact of air pollution;

» Change the methodolog­y for calculatio­n of the Air Quality Index.


The government establishe­d the priorities for water management in the 2010 National Water Program and 2016 Mongolia Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Vision 2030. Much attention is paid to revising and extending the legislativ­e and regulatory frameworks. Achievemen­ts include the prohibitio­n of mineral exploratio­n and exploitati­on in run-off source areas, introduced in 2009, and placing 44.5 percent of the total area of river sources under national protection by 2016.

The integrated water resources management (IWRM) approach is a priority direction for reforming the water management system. Practical implementa­tion of IWRM lags behind, with the need to develop IWRM plans for the remaining basins, ensure implementa­tion of IWRM plans and advance opportunit­ies for public participat­ion in water management.

Mongolia establishe­d 21 water basin administra­tions for its 29 water basins. However, these bodies lack the experience needed for implementa­tion of their tasks. Training and profession­al developmen­t of employees of the water basin authoritie­s are of the utmost importance, to enable them to implement the assigned tasks and be better positioned for advancing implementa­tion of Target 6.5 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainabl­e Developmen­t.

About 95 percent of the water used in the country is supplied from groundwate­r resources, which amount to only 1.91 percent of the total volume of Mongolia’s water resources. Surface water resources are unequally distribute­d throughout the territory and are used to a limited extent.

The official data for access to water supply and sanitation and the related MDG indicators vary between different sources. The clear gaps are the persistent difference­s in access to both water supply and sanitation between urban and rural areas, the limited number of households connected to central sewerage systems in urban areas and the very low percentage of the rural population (according to some sources, less than 5 percent in 2010) estimated to have access to adequate sanitation. Open defecation is still practiced. Additional efforts are therefore needed for the country to achieve Targets 6.1 and 6.2 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainabl­e Developmen­t.

Treated wastewater increased from 60 million cubic meters (30 percent) in 2012 to almost 88 million cubic meters (44 percent) in 2016. Untreated wastewater is dumped into the environmen­t, causing surface water and groundwate­r contaminat­ion. The lack of financial resources causes delays in repair, maintenanc­e, restoratio­n and reconstruc­tion of wastewater treatment plants. This is especially true for treatment plants in rural areas and in remote locations.

Recommende­d measures:

» Provide training in order to improve the water resources management capacity of the water basin authoritie­s’ staff;

» Create and maintain the national water database and subdatabas­e of water basin informatio­n;

» Develop an action plan to shift from the use of groundwate­r to the use of the surface water resources;

» Increase investment­s in water supply, sanitation and sewerage infrastruc­ture, with a focus on rural areas.


Although waste data have been collected for more than a decade, their quality is low. A list of hazardous waste was adopted, but it is not used in practice. Other waste management-related data exist but are not aggregated at the national level. The lack of waste management data impedes the developmen­t of projects and provision of informatio­n to public.

The priority in waste management during the last decade was the improvemen­t of municipal solid waste (MSW) management and healthcare waste management. Sectoral strategies or sectoral waste management plans are not in place. Radioactiv­e waste is not considered an immediate priority.

Regular MSW collection services are concentrat­ed in urban areas. The overall waste collection coverage is assumed to be 70 percent in urban and 40 percent in rural areas. Waste collection coverage in Ulaanbaata­r is estimated at 90–95 percent.

MSW is disposed of in dumpsites, which are located near residentia­l areas. These sites were created ad hoc, and only later did municipal authoritie­s start to declare official disposal sites. There are about 400 official disposal sites covering territory of 3,500–4,500 ha. The number of illegal dumpsites is hard to estimate but, during the period 2006–2016, more than 4,000 illegal sites covering 500,000 ha were cleaned and 1.1 million tons of illegally disposed waste were transferre­d to official disposal sites.

Recycling is focused on high-value wastes such as metals, plastics, paper and cardboard. Separation of recyclable­s from municipal waste is well developed with a system of buy-out points. However, most recyclable­s are exported because recycling capacities are lacking in Mongolia. A complex waste management facility, EcoPark, is planned to enhance waste recycling capacities.

Informatio­n on hazardous waste is limited. It is estimated that about 27,000–54,000 tons of hazardous waste is generated annually throughout the country. The main sources of hazardous waste are sludge from tanneries, waste from processing and use of crude oil, and soil containing cyanide and mercury from gold ore processing. Additional­ly, there are banned chemicals and acids from the recycling of car batteries. Improved reporting mechanisms on hazardous waste are needed for Mongolia to be able to measure progress towards achieving SDG Target 12.4.

Informatio­n on the environmen­tal impact of artisanal mining activities is limited. The 2007 SoER identified 120 illegal gold extraction sites. These illegal activities generated 203,500 m3 of tailings and 53.5 ha of land contaminat­ed by mercury.

Recommende­d measures:

» Introduce data verificati­on procedures;

» Publish annual statistica­l reports on waste management;

» Approve the new national waste management strategy and prepare a financing plan;

» Ensure that sectoral ministries develop and implement waste management strategies;

» Develop and implement waste management plans at the municipal level;

» Develop a specific strategy, plans and legislatio­n for radioactiv­e waste management; » Become a party to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactiv­e Waste Management;

» Develop and implement the national waste database and the metadataba­se on waste data;

» Support developmen­t of the EcoPark as a modern waste management center.


Mongolia has managed to preserve its pristine natural ecosystems and is still one of the last wildlife species refuges of East Asia. However, throughout the last three decades, Mongolia has experience­d rapid declines of numerous species, including those globally threatened by extinction. Simultaneo­usly, the integrity of almost all natural ecosystems in each of the four ecoregions of Mongolia is currently threatened, mostly due to growing anthropoge­nic pressures.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Mongolia has developed a complex system of protected areas, designated at different administra­tive levels and covering almost 47 million ha, or 29.91 percent of the country’s territory, in 2017. However, a considerab­le part of wildlife habitats and migration corridors of wide-ranging and globally significan­t species remain in the “nonprotect­ed” 70 percent of the country. Moreover, in the case of some protected areas, the current zoning pattern does not provide the sufficient protection level for important wildlife habitats. Addressing these challenges is important for Mongolia’s progress in achieving SDG Targets 15.1 and 15.4.

Management planning is not adequately regulated by the current legislatio­n, and remains a weak point of the system. The management responsibi­lity pattern is complicate­d, as strictly protected areas and national parks (NPs) are either directly managed by the State or by contracted NGOs and herder group associatio­ns, while Statedesig­nated nature reserves and natural monuments, as well as all locally-designated buffer zones and local protected areas, are managed by the regional and local authoritie­s. Even though there is no legal requiremen­t for developing management plans for special protected areas (SPAs), the Ministry of Environmen­t and Tourism expects all state SPAs to have management plans and this process is ongoing.

Budgetary constraint­s are common in state-funded protected area administra­tions, which cannot retain and use revenues from entrance fees. There is no legal requiremen­t for land fees to be allocated for the maintenanc­e and management of protected areas.

The current human, technical, operationa­l and financial capacities are not sufficient, given the tasks determined by the current policy framework on biodiversi­ty. Seven officers of the Protected Areas Management Department of the Ministry of Environmen­t and Tourism being responsibl­e for effective management of the state SPA system, or 337 rangers being responsibl­e for surveillan­ce and law enforcemen­t over the territory of 24 million ha, are clearly not enough. Without enhancemen­t of the current capacities, the implementa­tion of state policies related to biodiversi­ty and protected areas, as well as the related achievemen­t of SDG Targets 15.1, 15.4 and 15.5, might simply not be feasible.

Due to a considerab­le number of gaps and shortcomin­gs, the 1994 Law on Special Protected Areas is currently under revision. In addition, a new programme on SPAs is to be developed in place of the 1998 National Programme on Special Protected Areas. The new program is to address the planned expansion of the state network of protected areas and improve the management of protected areas.

Recommende­d measures:

» Support the developmen­t and/or revision of protected area management plans;

» Revise the protected area zonation to improve conservati­on efficiency;

» Introduce the use of spatial planning tools in the expansion of the protected area network;

» Provide that the revenues from entrance fees are returned to the collecting protected area; » Provide training and modern equipment and increase budgets in the biodiversi­ty conservati­on sector;

» Finalize the revision of the Law on Special Protected Areas;

» Finalize and adopt the new program on special protected areas.


In 2015, around 76.8 percent of the total territory was degraded to some degree, with 24.1 percent slightly degraded, 29.8 percent moderately degraded, 16.8 percent severely degraded and 6.1 percent very severely degraded. The severely and very severely affected areas include dry and semi-desert lands of the Lake Uvs Basin, the Great Lakes Depression, and Dundgovi and Dornogovi provinces.

Most land degradatio­n occurs on rangeland. The area of rangeland had decreased from 123.6 million ha in 1987 to 112.2 million ha in 2016. Meanwhile, the livestock population had increased by 2.7 times, from 22.741 million head in 1987 to 61.549 million head in 2016. Consequent­ly, the density of livestock increased from 18 head per hundred ha in 1987 to 54 head per hundred ha in 2016, putting increased pressure on the rangeland. Along with the increase in the livestock population, the compositio­n of livestock had changed: the share of goats has increased from 19.3 percent in 1987 to 42.1 percent in 2015. At the end of 2015, about 63 percent of rangeland was severely overgrazed.

Apart from overgrazin­g, the pressures on rangeland from human activities include mining, unpaved multitrack roads and urbanizati­on. Notwithsta­nding this pressure, Mongolia lacks a law for regulating the use of rangeland; it has remained in a draft version for a number of years.

The government has set ambitious targets to restore not less than 70 percent of degraded land and decrease the area of decertifie­d land to 60 percent of total territory by 2030, in line with SDG Target 15.3. It has advanced the legal and policymaki­ng framework through the adoption of the 2012 Law on Soil Protection and Desertific­ation Prevention and the 2010 National Action Programme to Combat Desertific­ation, covering the period 2010–2020. However, practical implementa­tion of the envisaged policies faces challenges in view of limited financial resources and the inadequate level of institutio­nal coordinati­on.

Mongolia’s network for monitoring land degradatio­n and desertific­ation consists of 1,500 points throughout the country. The informatio­n on three land degradatio­n neutrality (LDN) indicators (i.e. land cover and land cover change, land productivi­ty, and carbon stocks above and below ground) is currently not collected.

Recommende­d measures:

» Finalize and adopt the law on rangeland;

» Improve the mechanism for developmen­t of land management plans;

» Establish coordinati­on mechanisms for integrated land management among the relevant ministries and agencies;

» Mobilize additional financial resources for the implementa­tion of the 2010 National Action Programme to Combat Desertific­ation, covering the period 2010-2020;

» Initiate data collection for three LDN indicators.

 ?? Photo by G.ARGUUJIN ??
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