No place for rest and relaxation in UB

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In 1954, the first master plan for the development of Ulaanbaatar was approved. In accordance with the plan, the construction of green areas from the central Sukhbaatar Square to Tuul River formed the general image of the current city center.

In other words, the distance from the State Palace to Zaisan Memorial was designated as a green area. The green area in Ulaanbaatar was divided into three categories: public land, special purpose green space or private sector green area, and limited use green area or cemetery, and railway green area.

Since that time, the city administration has been developing a certain amount of green space, but not at satisfactory level.
According to international standards, in a city of 1 million people, 24 square meters of green space per person is required. According to the World Health Organization, every city is recommended to provide a minimum of 9 square meters of urban green space for each person, ensure that it is accessible, safe and functional. However, Ulaanbaatar has an average of 4 to 6 square meters of green space per person.

Residents agree that this is not enough. In particular, many complained that piece of land of the National Culture and Recreation Center (Children’s Park) was transferred to a construction company instead of creating a green environment, and called for the land to be turned into a green area. They have expressed dissatisfaction with the transfer of the piece of land to a private company until 2075. Representative of Sukhbaatar District Council B.Munkhdul said, “The park has about 31.5 hectares of vacant land. First, the permit was given to the National Culture and Recreation Center LLC by Order No. 198 of the capital city mayor in 2011. In 2015, Order No. A902 extended it until 2075 or by 65 years.”

Vacant land of the amusement park

Of course, developing the amusement park’s vacant land into a green area will help increase the opportunities for the people to live a healthy life. In other words, green areas are an important factor in creating a healthy lifestyle. The health of a city population is highly dependent on green spaces.

In addition to health, 1 hectare of trees produces 18 million cubic meters of oxygen, and absorbs 30 to 35 percent of air pollution. Deciduous trees absorb 26 percent of noise pollution, reduces dust levels by 21 to 76 percent, offsets overheating and cooling by two to three degrees Celsius. Brightly colored plants absorb 75 percent of ambient moisture into the soil and increase humidity by 4 to 7 percent.

In this regard, the city needs to prioritize green development to restore the image of the city and to forge a healthy green city.

IMPLEMENTING GREEN GROWTH POLICY FOR GREEN AREA

There are more than 40 laws and regulations on natural resources (water, forests, plants and air) and waste in Mongolia. Particularly, the Green Growth Policy was adopted on June 13, 2014, which became the pillar of green development. It sets out the goals and objectives of green growth through 2030, and specifies the policies and strategies to implement them.

The Green Growth Policy states that environmental protection and rehabilitation will be intensified, environmental pollution and degradation will be reduced, and ecosystem balance should be maintained. It also stipulates that environmentally friendly living and cultural values will be developed. The policy will be implemented in two main stages: Laying the foundation for green growth for 2014 to 2020, the transition to green growth for 2021 to 2030.

In accordance with this policy, urban landscaping and green space should be prioritized. 

Moreover, the Ulaanbaatar 2020 Master Plan and Development Approaches for 2030 was developed in 2014. The plan sets out a clear picture of how Ulaanbaatar will be developed.

The master plan has the following strategies for environment.

• To improve air, soil, and water quality monitoring.

• To designate rivers as special protectionareas and renew the existing protection area boundaries.

• To create green areas to buffer residential areas from other uses and areas.

• To increase the size of special protected areas.

• To discourage the use of raw coal.

• To encourage the implementation of waste water treatment technology.

• To implement river enhancement projects.

• To improve the forest preservation management and monitoring system.

• To limit exploration and mining activities within and around the city.

It also states that an open space will provide connected parks and green spaces within the city for residents and tourists. More than 30 parks on 3,780.4 hectares of land is planned to be built by 2030. By 2030, Ulaanbaatar plans to have 30.3 square meters of open space per resident and 12 percent (4,236.1 hectares) of the city is expected to become an open space, according to the master plan.

LACK OF FUNDING, INSUFFICIENT RESULTS

Mongolia has clear policies and plans for green development, but it is important to implement them. Lack of landscaping, plant life and green zones in the capital is obvious everywhere in the city.

       In spring, city gardeners plant trees, make lawns, plant flowers, and water lawns and trees. There are said to be 134 gardeners in the capital city. They play an important role in creating a comfortable and healthy environment for the citizens of the capital city.

As of 2020, there are a total of 1,204,737 trees and shrubs of 75 species belonging to 17 genera and 37 species in the green area of the capital city, or in an area of 424 hectares.

In order to increase green spaces and reduce environmental pollution, a total of 14,053 conifers were planted with a growth rate of 98 percent, including 10,037 pine, 3,516 spruce and 500 larch trees from 2016 to 2020.

The city administration plants lawn on 98 hectares of area every year. These include sidewalks, green areas on median barriers of roads and highways.

Specialist in charge of landscaping, waste and green space policy of the Mayor’s Office B.Sukhbat said that in green areas, the city perform a total of 22 operations, including watering, fertilizing, whitewashing trees, pest control, and pruning trees.

Plant care contributes to the green development of the city. However, the city does not create new green spaces and facilities. The approved budget is spent on maintenance, not on increasing the size of public areas.

A total of 5.8 billion MNT was budgeted for the maintenance of the capital city’s green facilities in 2017, and 7.5 billion MNT in 2018 and 2019.

In 2020, 40.8 billion MNT was spent on gardening and reducing air and soil pollution. Particularly, 1.4 billion MNT was budgeted to create an eco-friendly environment with green facilities in 2020.

This year, 3.4 billion MNT is budgeted for environmental protection and rehabilitation, and 3.2 billion MNT for urban landscaping.

“We are facing the challenge of bringing green spaces to world-class level. However, the budget is not enough to build green facilities,” General Manager of Ulaanbaatar and Head of the Mayor’s Office T.Gantumur emphasized funding issues.

“Approximately 200 million MNT is spent on maintenance per hectare, which means that more than 10 billion MNT is required for 98 hectares. From 30,000 to 40,000 flowers are planted per year. According to international standards, a small city spends 150 billion MNT on green spaces. In order to expand the green spaces of the capital city, we upgraded equipment,” he said.

Specialist of the Mayor’s Office B.Sukhbat noted green development has been constrained due to limited funding. “In 2020, 7.5 billion MNT was spent on 98.3 hectares of land under the ownership of the capital city. People think it is a lot of money. However, this includes wages for all workers, transportation, fuel, timber and shrub resources, irrigation, and maintenance.”

This shows that all the money is spent on maintenance and landscaping. Strategies for large green areas are included in the plans, but no visible developments are being made.

In accordance with the Ulaanbaatar 2020 Master Plan and Development Approaches for 2030, Ulaanbaatar will be a safe, healthy, and green city that is resilient to climate change. We need to work harder to achieve all of these plans by 2030. An eco-friendly city is a city that does not create negative impacts on natural environment, one that can be passed on to the next generation, and has a decent quality of life.

    Misheel Lkhasuren

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