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Between Sacred Waters and Natural Capital: Resistance to Hydroelectric Dams in Mongolia

By: 
Lital Khaikin

Mongolia’s Action Plan for Implementation of the Green Development Policy ... The Green Development Policy also presents hydroelectric development as the next step for Mongolia to transition from fossil fuels. The Selenge River is considered a transboundary body of water under UN protocol. Originating in northern Mongolia, the Selenge River has Ramsar protected wetland status and is an integral tributary to the Lake Baikal in Russia, contributing to about half the lake’s volume of water. With a geologic history of over 25 million years, the Baikal is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known to contain about twenty percent of the world’s unfrozen fresh water.

The plateau encompassing Mongolia and Inner Mongolia (China) has in turn experienced a shrinking of lakes due to large-scale human intervention, from the demands of water-intensive coal-mining, to overgrazing and agricultural irrigation that disturbs groundwater and rivers.