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Troubles for the Khatan Tuul River

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More than half of Mongolia’s population is residing near the Tuul River basin, which takes up three percent of Mongolia’s total land. The Khatan (Queen) Tuul River has provided clean, clear water since the time of our nomadic ancestors, whose lifestyle depended on the fresh water supply. Unfortunately, due to urbanization and industrialization, the Tuul River is now in need of protection.
Aside from the population of more than two million, various factors are harming the Tuul River’s ecosystem, including some 20,000 factories and enterprises, 400 hectares of irrigated crop production, 330,000 livestock, and Mongolia’s three major thermal power stations, which are the country’s main source of energy.

According to statistics, Mongolia takes 77 million cubic meters of water a year from water reserves of the Tuul River basin to supply the residents of Ulaanbaatar. Damage, erosion and deprivation of the Queen River, vegetative cover along the river banks, and dwindling forests have reached levels of concern owing to the operations of factories, tourism, construction areas and mining. Operations at the Ulaanbaatar Central Waste Water Treatment Plant (UCWWTP) are constantly faulty as a result of overloaded conditions. This is making it impossible for residents in the capital to carry out the traditional lifestyle of following the clean waters of the Tuul.

Mongolia is one of the top five most polluted countries in the world according to the pollution level set by the Global Environment Agency in 2013. Environmental protection agencies say that Mongolian pollution is increasing, instead of decreasing. If this continues, the Queen Tuul River will become the “Trash” Tuul River. It’s time for the government and relevant professional bodies to take notice of the fact that society and economic development may be harmed if ecological degradation continues.
The Tuul River is the sole source for drinking water for residents in Ulaanbaatar. Looking at research from the past two years, the technological capacity of UCWWTP is nowhere near overcoming increasing pollution.
Whenever Tuul River pollution is mentioned, we refer to the issues of the UCWWTP. However, it’s an exaggeration if we say that all of the river’s pollution is caused by the UCWWTP. Even if the UCWWTP upgrades its technology and boosts its cleaning power to 90 percent, it will not make significant changes because the plant is not the only source of pollution. The most significant sources of pollution of Ulaanbaatar’s only source of drinking water are building construction, facilities and plants in random areas, and making infrastructure and pollution issues a low priority while putting together the general development plan for Ulaanbaatar.
The Central Laboratory of Environmental Monitoring took tests along the Tuul River, from Ulaanbaatar down to Songino soum in Zavkhan Province, and Khadan Khyasaa in Selenge Province. The laboratory conducted chemical and pollution analysis. They conducted tests repeatedly for three weeks on wastewater coming into the UCWWTP and processed water coming out of the plant. The results of the tests showed that water from the Tuul River in these areas was either very highly polluted or hazardous for consumption. Specifically, after processed water from the UCWWTP mixes with the Tuul River and reaches Songino soum, Shine Tseg, and Khadan Khyasaa, oxygen levels drop and waver from 0.05 to 2.79 milligrams a liter, allowing pollution to reach hazardous levels. Biochemical oxygen demand (B.O.D) amounts in the water exceeded the acquiescence standard amount by 27 to 28 times. Azotemia ammonia in the water surpassed the acceptable amount by 36 to 94 times, and phosphorus by 5 to 30 times, indicating high levels of pollution. Permanganate oxide exceeded safe levels by 1.5 to 5.7 times, proving the toxicity of water in these areas.
On the other hand, when combined tests from water coming in and out of the plant were taken and analyzed for daily cleaning processes, cleaning capacity had grown from 50.7 to 52.8 percent. Each day, 160 to 200 thousand cubic meters of partially cleaned water drains out of this plant and flows into the Tuul. There’s no assurance that people living along the river and drinking its water can live on this highly polluted waterway. The same applies to animals.
In 2012, the government made Resolution No. 203 and approved the Khatan Tuul Program. In Chapter 2.1.3, it states, “Polluters must pay and consumers must protect.” This principle isn’t being followed, even to this day. It’s even uncertain about whether the program, itself, is being implemented.
There should be a continuity of policies and decisions made by the government. If government policy is approved, its implementation should continue and the parliament should monitor it regardless of changes in ruling parties. This program is clear evidence, proving that the Mongolian policy system doesn’t have continuity. Politics isn’t necessary for protecting the Queen Tuul River. It should be protected despite gubernatorial and ruling party changes. It’s time to let the public know who is implementing or hindering the Queen Tuul Program, where and how.



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