Zud-caused migration exhausts UB

  • By chagy5
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  • 2024-03-29
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Zud-caused migration exhausts UB

The weather is warming, therefore the off-spring season has come. The off-spring of livestock, signaling the fear, has brought more difficult challenges to the herders than ever before. The herders, who have been struggling for several months to prevent their livestock from death, are already facing difficulties to survive the harsh winter and spring and the situation is even more dire. As of now, 20 soums of six provinces have situation where an impenetrable ice-cover forms on the surface of precipitation, preventing livestock from grazing, 85 soums of 16 provinces have the very thick and deep snowfall, 41 soums of 12 provinces and two districts of the capital city are experiencing zud like difficult condition, according to the National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring. It means, even though spring has arrived, harsh days are still ongoing. 

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has announced that about six million livestock have died this winter and spring due to severe weather. This number is equivalent to about eight percent of the total livestock of Mongolia. NEMA estimated that as the number of dead livestock increases during the long days of spring, it is expected to exceed up to 20 million. If that happens, our country will suffer more losses and hazards than the one in 1944, which is considered as the most deprived and dangerous in history. More than 80 years ago, Mongolians lost 33 percent of its total livestock (8.1 million) during that year’s winter and spring. However, professional organizations have made an assessment and estimated that by the end of this spring, three times as many livestock will be lost. According to NEMA, over 2,200 herders have lost more than 70 percent of their livestock and 342 families lost all of them in this winter and spring. In this data, all of the herders who were affected by the arduous condition were not highlighted, it is just about the heavy losses and the families with the highest number of livestock grief. If every family that has suffered in some way or lost its livestock due to natural disasters were included, this date would have shown a significant increase. By the end of this spring, it is impossible to guess how many herders will have lost their livestock. As the number of herders and livestock affected by winter and spring conditions increases, not only will the livelihood and social issues (such as education and health) of rural citizens be severely affected, but it will also have a huge negative impact on the quality of life and workload of the capital city citizens to a certain extent. Among the herders who have lost their livestock, there are many people who go to the capital city to work. In particular, there is an unwritten law that migration from the countryside to the city is intensified after a natural disaster that has lasted for a long time and caused a lot of damage.

Head of the Disaster Risk Management Department of NEMA and Colonel D.Baasansuren said during a discussion, “The disaster that causes the greatest challenge and loss in the life of citizens is zud. It is absurd to measure its damage only by the number of livestock that died. The zud situation affects all sectors of society, such as education, health, economy, government and food supply”. He then continued, “If you look at the statistics of migration from the rural areas to the city, the population flow has increased dramatically in the years after the zud incident”. The annual population migration figures released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) of Mongolia also proved what he said.

NSO has had migration records and statistics since 1983. Between 1983 and 1987, approximately 2,500-3,400 citizens went to Ulaanbaatar. But in 1988, this number increased by 4.8-6.6 times and exceeded 16,000. The reason for this was the sudden severe winter of 1986 and 1987. At that time, more than 800,000 livestock died. It seems like a small number, but it was equal to four percent of the total livestock at that time. Since then, the movement of people from the countryside to the city has been relatively stable, varying between 10,000 and 12,000. After consecutive years of zud in 1999-2002, it indicates that mass migration towards Ulaanbaatar intensified. In 2003, the capital city “got” 40,172 new citizens, and in 2004, 41,592 citizens respectively. In the winters of 1990-2000, 2000-2001, and 2001-2002, around 12-19 percent of the total livestock of our country died. The same situation is observed after the zud of 2009-2010, when it ranks first in terms of the number of livestock loss (10 million) and second in terms of its percent in the total livestock. In fact, migration and zud are inextricably linked.

Researchers have been talking about the fact that since 2020, zud has continued throughout Mongolia, and the availability of grasses has been drastically reduced. This year, however, the heavy snow fell until it was impossible for even people to drive, and the weather became noticeably worse for people. In recent years, the migration flow towards the capital has been relatively high. In 2017, when permanent migration to the capital was banned, as a result, the number dropped sharply to 10,355, in 2018 it reached its lowest level in the last 29 years, to 6,568, and in 2019 to 12,373. However, people going to the capital city increased sharply from 2020, when the decision was invalidated and the risk of zud went up. In the report “Mobility Monitoring for Disaster Preparedness in Mongolia” jointly issued by NEMA and the International Organization for Migration two years ago, it was stated that “Mongolia has a unique geographical location and the rural population is highly dependent on the livestock sector. Because of that, it is vulnerable to climate change, and winter. Due to climate change, the frequency of zud has increased, reducing the livelihood opportunities of local people, and increasing population migration from rural to urban areas. If this situation continues, the number of people going to Ulaanbaatar from the local area will increase dramatically due to the increasing frequency of disasters. The capital city administration will face great difficulties in accommodating and settling the people”. This conclusion and statement is now being visible in reality. This year’s zud will certainly add more force to it. Citizens are continuously mentioning, it is true that people who had lost their earnings or livestock due to zud already started to move to Ulaanbaatar.

A resident of Sukhbaatar Province, who had lost the largest number of livestock, 1.3 million, said, “My brother and sister, who used to say ‘Never quitting to herd livestock’, and who have been herding livestock for more than 20 years, have settled in the capital city. Their child, who studies in Ulaanbaatar said, ‘Come to the city, what are you going to do in the countryside?’ As a result, they made their decision”. The resident then continued, “It will be difficult to get used to the hectic city. But it seems that they don’t have any interest in experiencing zud anymore. They said, ‘No matter what, let's go to the city to be near my child’. It was sad to listen to this kind of speech”. 

This year-on-year zud has weakened the herders’ courage. Realizing that the possibility of herding livestock and making a living is shrinking year by year, the herdsmen are thinking of selling their livestock at a low price, even though they herded them in a very harsh situation. A herder living in Uyench soum of Khovd Province said, “During the past two years, I sold my livestock. Now I only have a few horses. I can’t make them all disappear. Herding is becoming increasingly difficult and costly. How much money has been spent on harvesting, stocking grass and fodder in recent years, lost count. It was not a help even to hire a herder. Finally I gave up. My family is talking about coming here during warm seasons, and going back to the city with our children in the winter”. People like this herder may be thinking the same. It is estimated that at least 30,000 families will settle in the capital this year. It is probably not just a made-up saying that “zud brings a lot of migration”.

In Ulaanbaatar, which is “locked” due to the problems caused by congestion and urbanization, and which has a population as many times as its load, this migration and population flow will certainly have a bad impact. There is a huge difference between the capital city of 10 or 15 years ago and today. Basic needs of society will increase in all aspects, starting with access to education, health, and electricity supply if there will be a population flow. The purpose of the “Rural Revival” Policy, which aims to solve the problems of Ulaanbaatar City by intensifying migration to the local area, will also be lost at this time. There will be more migration from rural areas to the capital city. Therefore, the government and political parties should focus on creating jobs in rural areas and stabilizing the economy, instead of making pre-election shows and politicizing them by saying that they will support the herders’ psychology and nurture them. Furthermore, there is a need to take a fundamental approach to reducing the risk of disasters, ensuring preparedness, and adjusting the number of livestock to the capacity of pastures.