Reindeer herders join in celebrations to mark World Environment Day

June 4, 2013 • Björn AlfthanBlog, Nomadic Herders, Projects

Nomadic Herdersd Exhibit in Ulan Bator for WED 2013Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia – 3 June 2013 – During the World Environment Day celebrations – hosted this year by the Government of Mongolia – the Nomadic Herders’ project held a seminar/workshop on Monday 3rd June entitled “The Future for Reindeer Husbandry and Conservation in Mongolia’s Biodiversity Hotspot”.

The seminar gathered together reindeer herders from East and West Taiga, the Ulaan Taiga Protected Areas Administration, the Hovsgul Aimag regional government, as well as representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Green Development, the Association of World Reindeer Herders (WRH), the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR) and GRID-Arendal.

The focus of the seminar was to provide an update and information sharing session on the topics of the new Special Presidential Decree on Reindeer Husbandry; a new potential project to transport reindeer from Sakha Republic to Mongolia; recent developments in the establishment of the Tengis-Shishged Protected Area; and a presentation on the Nomadic Herders UNEP/GEF project.

Opening the session, Tsogtsaikhan Purev from the Ministry of Environment and Green presented the new Special Decree on Reindeer Husbandry. The Decree, which was recently enacted by Parliament, will have a focus on providing increased access for the reindeer herding community to social welfare, education, and cooperation opportunities. A total of 36 activities under four pillars will be implemented over 5 years.

Johan Mathis Turi (Secretary General) and Mikhail Pogodaev (Chair), speaking on behalf of the Association of World Reindeer Herders, presented their ideas related to the transport of reindeer from Sakha Republic to Mongolia, overland and possibly using the Trans-Siberian railway as transport. Anders Oskal, Director of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, discussed the experience of the Centre in establishing Reindeer Husbandry Information Centres across the circumpolar Arctic, and presented some ideas for the establishment of a centre in Tsaganuur, Mongolia – with a special focus on biodiversity.

Mr. J. Tomorsukh, Director from the Ulaan Taiga Strictly Protected Area, presented the latest developments in the Ulaan Taiga Strictly Protected Area, including the reasons for the creation of the Special Protected Area due to mining pressures and the loss of biodiversity. He also outlined some of the specific challenges facing the protected area administration presently, and the legal basis governing the protected areas in the region. Mr. S. Bataa, local representative of the Taiga Nature Society, gave the group an update on current population demographics of the reindeer herding community.

Bjorn Alfthan (GRID-Arendal) and Svein Mathiesen (ICR) finished the presentation session by presenting the UNEP/GEF Nomadic Herders project and updates.

The ensuing lively discussion focused on the zoning of the Tengis-Shishged River Basin Protected Area and how this had affected reindeer herders. The full report of the workshop/seminar, including a summary of each of the talks, will be available soon on . The group reconvened for a roundtable discussion on Tuesday 3rd June to discuss the above presentations and focus on the issues of reindeer health, reindeer importing, protected areas and more.

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Focus on Green Economy in Mongolia for World Environment Day

Celebrations to mark Mongolia as host country for World Environment Day 2013 also got off to a big start on Monday 3rd at the National Forum on Green Development in Ulaan Bataar.

The World Environment Day is a yearly event co-hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and a host country, which for 2013 is Mongolia.

Events also occur simultaneously around the world on the 5th June to celebrate environmental achievements and call for more action on certain environmental challenges.

Even though the theme this year is “Think, Eat, Save” – which focuses on reducing food waste and food loss – the focus in Mongolia was all about green economy and the development of the country’s Green Development Strategy.

Mongolia is also looking to foster a greener economy, and is keenly aware of the impact that unregulated economic growth can have on the environment.

Mongolia’s president, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, speaking at the opening of the National Forum on Green Development, wants Mongolia to be a front-runner in world environmental policy, not only adopting some of the best environmental practices from other countries, but also leading the way.

He cited mining and desertification as some of the key priorities to address for the coming years.

In 2009, 46% of the country’s land surface was covered by mineral licences, but this has since been reduced to 40%. Part of the country has recently been declared a no-go zone for mining, including the whole of the northern province of Hovsgul above 50O latitude, which is home to several national parks, including where Mongolia’s only reindeer herders, the Dukha, live.

No one at the forum was saying that mining should stop altogether, however. Mongolia’s economy has leapt to the top of the charts in terms of growth over the past few years, powered by the development of the mining sector. This is likely to continue in the coming years.

Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director, also present at the National Forum, spoke about the danger of mining being a “short term bonanza”, but also cited the potential for countries to use this mineral wealth successfully for long-term sustainability.

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