Mongolian Youth Make a Contribution to Environmental Protection

|Mongolia

The active participation of young people is essential in solving environmental problems.

Mongolia’s specific vulnerabilities derive from its landlocked location in one of the least integrated regions of the world, with a small population dwelling in a vast expanse of land and enduring harsh climate conditions. While the traditional livelihoods and lifestyles of Mongolians have been intimately linked to the environment, more recent changes—including the transition from a centrally-planned economy to a market-oriented one, a demographic transition witnessed by a rapid rural-to-urban migration, some marked climatic changes, and the challenges presented by globalization—have significantly increased Mongolia’s vulnerabilities since the 1990s.

In recent years Mongolia has been facing major environmental problems due to the naturally harsh climate and the linked natural physical conditions of; limited water resources, fragile vegetation, receding permafrost, long-term climate change, land degradation, deforestation, desertification, water resource depletion, overgrazing and grassland mismanagement, water and energy wastage, air and water pollution, solid and hazardous waste, and other factors. The report “Mongolia: State of the Environment” identified land degradation, desertification, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and air pollution as five priority environmental issues.

Raising public awareness, especially of youth, in interacting properly with nature, living healthily within the carrying capacity of the Earth, and utilizing natural resources efficiently and in non-wasteful ways, are fundamental actions with regard to the United Nations initiative “Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.”

The government of Mongolia adopted its National Program on Ecological Education in 1997. Within the framework of the program, ecological education has been introduced as a subject from the preschool to the university level. Unfortunately the curricula focused mainly on classic ecological knowledge and were more theoretical than practical; far removed from what is needed for development and life skills. Most of the environment-related information and resources focused on the scientific community and officialdom, or the content and message used were not in appropriate language for children and youth to easily understand.

In response to this need, the “Youth by Youth” peer-education program on the environment has emerged from the Mongolian Youth Environment Network (MYEN). Tunza-Mongolian Youth Environment Network is an umbrella network at the national level for interacting with the North East Asia Youth Environment Network (NEAYEN) and the UNEP’s youth programs, with a mission of increasing the role of Mongolian youth in a concerted national response to the implementation of MDG7, by supporting the efforts of Mongolian youth to address environmental and sustainable development concerns.

The Mongolian Youth Environment Network brought together 14 environmental, youth and volunteer-based organizations. There are also 32 students and individuals who teamed up with Tunza-MYEN and established the Tunza Youth Volunteer Club “Youth for Nature.”

The network is working on environmental protection and sustainable development by active information dissemination and environmental education to increase public awareness and to contribute to collaboration, coordination and policy development by organizing campaigns, holding event-days and initiating online and round-table discussions and public consultation with the government, and the private and other sectors. In addition it provides a skills-building program by harnessing the skills, knowledge and sharing of experiential learning and best practices in natural-resource management, participatory learning and action, and project development and resource mobilization.

Our youth make a big contribution to environmental protection and participate effectively in national sustainable development processes.

Tunza MYEN members and volunteers have undertaken many activities focused on environmental protection. Our youth actively participated in the implementation of the “One Million Trees” program for forestation in Bogd Khan Mountain National Park, located within the municipality of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, and planted about 300 trees and bushes. A series of all-peer field-trips to increase environmental awareness were conducted by “Youth for Nature” club volunteers, and involved over 5,000 school students in total, from five provinces. Youth volunteers were actively involved in the implementation of a solid-waste management project, where they trained housewives in the target districts. They also developed education and information materials such as brochures and calendars which were delivered to the target demographic. Young Buddhist monks, who are also active members of ours, developed a new approach for public awareness and environmental education on environment protection, using Buddhist teaching and religious traditions. The Buddhist environmental teaching handbook was developed by young monks from Dashchoilin Monastery, one of the leading monasteries in Mongolia. They produced a leaflet on traditional customs for the protection of the environment and gave environmental protection messages to the public during popular religious ceremonies and events.

Desertification is one of Mongolia’s main problems. Due to the intensification of dust and sandstorms, the fertile strata of the soil in the Gobi and steppe regions have been eroded and negative impacts on socio-economic patterns are also increasing. Northeast Asia is also suffering from such adverse impacts. According to scientific estimates, about 50% of dust and sandstorms occurring in Northeast Asia originate in Mongolia. The Mongolian government initiated the national “Green Belt” program, with the objectives of creating an ecological band which totally covers the junction area between the Mongolian Gobi and steppe regions and of reducing the present intensification—caused by climate change—of loss in forest reserves, desertification, sand movement, and dust and sandstorms.

Tunza MYEN members support this program because the program results in significant deceleration of the desertification and sand-movement process, improvement in pasture carrying capacity, and the mitigation of adverse impacts of dust and sandstorms at the regional, national and international levels. Therefore Tunza MYEN initiated the regional youth ecology tour, which was made up of NEAYEN members, to contribute to the implementation of the Mongolian national “Green Belt” program.

Despite having completed many activities successfully, we still have a lot to do.

Youth, working together, can make a difference.