Development in Mongolia’s Bogd Khan Strictly Protected Area should be halted immediately.

The Bogd Khan Strictly Protected Area (SPA) is one of the world's oldest protected parks. It is situated south of the city of Ulaanbaatar, and encompasses the forested Bogd Khan mountain. As early as the founding of Ulaanbaatar as a permanent settlement, the Bogd Khan area was designated as sacred and protected accordingly. Activities such as forestry and hunting have been forbidden for centuries. Today, the Bogd Khan SPA retains its spiritual significance while also acting as a recreational outlet for outdoors enthusiasts, as the nearest woodland to Ulaanbaatar.

However, the Bogd Khan SPA has been under nearly-continuous threat since the rise of Mongolian capitalism in 1990. In the early 2000s, the government floated plans to build a major highway through the region in order to service a proposed new airport. 2009 saw the opening of a ski resort built on the slopes of the Bogd Khan mountain. The Zaisan valley has been developed into a high-rent region of gated communities. In the summer of 2010, the government withdrew building licenses for dozens of projects in the valleys of the Bogd Khan SPA -- particularly near Zaisan -- that had not yet started.


All the No points

Development in Mongolia’s Bogd Khan Strictly Protected Area should be halted immediately.

Yes because... No because...

Proposition Case

This government proposes to immediately halt all development within the traditional boundaries of the Bogd Khan SPA.

Developments that are complete, or nearly so, will be seized by the national government through a process of eminent domain and returned to the developer after land purchase agreements and environmental impact studies have been completed. Developments that have yet to begin, or developments that are not nearly complete (for example, those with incomplete superstructure) shall be demolished and the land on which they were built will be returned to its earlier condition at the expense of the developer. Following this process, which shall take no longer than two years -- and during which no future developments anywhere near the park might begin -- the park boundaries will be re-surveyed and carefully delineated with a series of posts to ensure that in the future there is no question about where developers might build.

The proposition's case rests on the following points:

1. The Bogd Khan SPA is worth protecting from progressive infringement.

2. The strength of private industry in Mongolia compels the government to act swiftly and significantly.

3. Other forms of devastation -- including illegal woodcutting, ecosystem destruction, and the impact of climate change -- can only be dealt with after the threat of development is removed.

Development in Mongolia’s Bogd Khan Strictly Protected Area should be halted immediately.

Yes because... No because...

The Value of the Bogd Khan SPA

As indicated in the introduction, the Bogd Khan SPA has a tremendous historic, spiritual, and recreational value. It is the nearest rural area to the downtown of Ulaanbaatar, and thus has great future potential as a hallmark of the city. The fact that it is accessible by public bus makes it accessible to the average person.

In the past two decades, Ulaanbaatar has seen its urban parkland decrease to virtually nothing during the swell of capitalist development. The "Nairamdal" childrens' park remains closed [[]] and one small piece of "green space" north of the parliament building will shortly be lost to an expansion project [[]]. It is becoming increasingly clear that urban parkland is essential to the vibrancy and health of a city[[]]. Thus, as an issue of cultural heritage and as an issue of urban planning, the park must remain.

We'll deal with the issue of immediacy in the next point, but it is also important to recognize that "development creep" is a danger that must be halted. If developer A builds 50 meters into the Bogd Khan SPA one year, then developer B will be more confident building down the road, 100 meters into the parkland, the next year. Because of the shape of the park boundaries -- consisting of a multitude of valleys -- such minor infringements eat up large pieces of the park's area. This isn't a slippery slope fallacy; rather, it's a precipitous fall that must be prevented by firm action from the outset.

Development in Mongolia’s Bogd Khan Strictly Protected Area should be halted immediately.

Yes because... No because...

The Strength of Industry

Given the high-rent nature of the developments in question, and the strong influence the private business sector has on the government, it seems likely that the benefactors of the development in the Bogd Khan SPA are the leaders of industry and their friends, the political leaders. The political climate in Mongolia is -- to use the sort of euphemistic verbiage that is typically adopted by business councils -- "conducive to business and direct investment." In other words, the business leaders control things: laws are changed when needed, and there is little interference with successful business endeavors.

Thus, the likelihood that development in the Bogd Khan SPA will eventually become legalized (and perhaps even encouraged) is quite high. The only way to ensure that the park is protected in the long term is to push through strong protective measures now.

Similarly, a minor legislative re-write will not be sufficient: what is needed is to create in the minds of the average Mongolian the opinion that the Bogd Khan SPA is a special, important, and thoroughly-protected place. This can be strengthened through conservation projects, the likes of which international NGOs are chomping at the bit to get into[[]].

Development in Mongolia’s Bogd Khan Strictly Protected Area should be halted immediately.

Yes because... No because...

Development is the First Obstacle

Unfortunately, the Bogd Khan SPA will face many existential challenges in the coming decades. Ulaanbaatar's burgeoning population requires a massive supply of firewood, and illegal woodcutting is a serious problem. This is exacerbated by the difficulty of growing trees in Mongolia's arid soil. Untended campfires have led to a great deal of forest fire damage and, with increased use, wildfires will continue to be a significant concern. Other ecosystem damage -- soil compactification from overuse of vehicles off roads, unsustainable hunting and gathering processes, and herding animals in the SPA's southern valleys -- also threaten the park. Lastly, the desertification that is occurring throughout Mongolia, partially as a consequence of climate change, will also encroach on the park.

However, none of these difficulties can be addressed until the elephant in the room is deal with. And since they must be addressed, the elephant -- development -- needs to come to heel.

Consider the poor man who is cutting trees to warm his ger for the winter. How can you convince him to keep the Bogd Khan sacred when, only a few hundred meters away, a rich businessman is building himself a new mansion? The environmental effort earlier referenced[[]] would never have gone ahead if there was no evidence of the government seeming to take a stand on development.

We've argued that the Bogd Khan SPA is essential for the residents of Ulaanbaatar, from the perspectives of culture and urban planning. We've also shown that the protection must occur immediately and significantly. Since the necessary first step of preservation of the Bogd Khan SPA is to stop development, it is imperative that development in the Bogd Khan SPA be halted immediately.

Debates > Development in Mongolia's Bogd Khan Strictly Protected Area should be halted immediately.