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Mongolia News / Politics / August 18, 2015

Investing in trees for a healthy future

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Everybody knows that we can produce chairs, tables, and many other necessities by processing wood. A fourth grade textbook tells children that three meters of wood can produce 26,000 different products. However, are Mongolian students also learning that trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen?

Most countries around the world protect their green forests and fight global warming, while Mongolia still allowed illegal logging until the government recently amended state policy on forests.

The following is an interview with Ts.Banzragch, who is the head of Forest Policy at the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Green Development.

State policy on forests has recently been amended. What is the purpose of the changes?

The government acknowledged a long term forest plan on May 14. Previously, the government was implementing short term forest plans nationwide. We still use forests as a main source of energy production. However, the foundation of green development is forests.

In the last three decades the temperature in Mongolia has increased by 2.4 degrees compared to the global temperature increase of 0.74 degrees. It is too high, as Mongolia is a country with a harsh climate.

It is vital to plant more trees to absorb more carbon dioxide. Forests only make up eight percent of our landscape. We aim to increase this to nine percent by 2030, following the new strategic plan.

Most countries around the world value trees for their age, showing that they are a valuable asset. However, we are only now realizing the value of trees and green forests. How long will it take to plant enough trees to decrease carbon dioxide rapidly?

We have only recently understood that green forests help to minimize the effects of global warming. The use of wood is a necessity however, and we will need to keep using wood as a product in the future.

To resolve this issue, we need to use the dead parts of the forests instead of cutting the live parts. As we follow this new strategic plan, we are planning to import wood from Siberia to supply the mining and construction industry.

It is indeed a fact that most countries value trees by their age, and we discussed  doing the same thing.  Previously, it cost 200,000 MNT to log one hectare, but this has now increased to 700, 000 MNT.

Lately, we have been experiencing a high loss of young and old trees due to drought. How can we solve this issue?

To reach the goal of nine percent of our land covered in forests, we need to afforest 1.5 million hectares. This doesn’t mean only planting new trees, we will need to protect the afforested areas from natural disasters such as wildfire and from  damage by animals.

We need to provide proper infrastructure to the people who are planting the trees, as this will allow us to save the forests.  One of the fundamental issues is afforestation of the Gobi, which the government is discussing.  They are aiming to plant more saxaul trees in Gobi areas.

Does this mean we are planting more trees to prevent desertification?

New strategic forest plans should consider the effects of agriculture. Saxaul and Suhai are the main trees that will be used to control erosion. Saxaul trees are mainly used for shelter during blizzards and sand storms.

Blizzards normally occur in a twelve year cycle, but this cycle has changed to once in every three or four years. We believe that if we afforest Gobi areas, this will decrease.

We have been using many different ways of fighting the illegal logging that takes place but most of these efforts have been unsuccessful. Do we have any other solutions?

Based on the data of the last several decades, illegal logging has decreased by 30 percent. However, the amount of illegal logging taking place is still a huge number. We need to reward those who plant trees, as half of these parties engage in illegal logging to meet their own needs.

To solve this problem, we need to educate them on the environmental effects of illegal logging as well as support them with a regular income. It is unethical to punish parents who are engaged in illegal logging to protect their children from the cold. It is vital to educate them and change their minds on illegal logging.

We changed the name of Tree Planting Day to “Let’s Grow, Not Plant”, but it is not easy to plant trees, is it?

As stated in the forest legislation’s section 31, every individual who is older than 16 years old should plant trees. This legislation wasn’t put into effect until we started Tree Planting Day.

Now we have a tradition of celebrating Tree Plating Day, and it is vital. We stopped citizens from planting trees in unauthorized locations, as it is more efficient to plant them in their own fields and protect them.

Apartment residents can protect trees in the gardens nearby their flats because they cannot pay attention to trees planted further away.

Moreover, organizations can have their own gardens to plant trees. We emphasized that In our new program. We plan on awarding the three best environmentally friendly provinces and soums.

Can there be a system that values trees for their age?

We are investigating this issue and researching the subject. People think differently when we talk to their wallet. Therefore, we should value and focus on protecting the old trees around the city as well as the valuable trees all around Mongolia.

How are we going to solve the staffing issue in managing forests?

We are planning to educate more students from colleges and universities on this issue. A staged course and special programs have been introduced by internal and external advisors into our education system.

In particular, we have opened up classes in Zuunkharaa, Bulgan, Murun and a laboratory with German partners. We need to prepare cadres to compete with the mining industry.


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