Manabu Horiuchi / Ulan Bator Liaison Office , Marubeni
What comes to mind when you hear Mongolia? Perhaps an idyllic countryside with green meadows, an endless clear blue sky, peaceful nomads and their yurts (portable dwellings of the nomads), the illusory stringfish, and the Naadam festival (an annual Mongolian celebration with wrestling and horse racing). This certainly was the scene when I first came to Mongolia to set up the Ulan Bator Office nineteen years ago, in 1994.
That image was swept away, however, when I returned to Mongolia for the first time in quite a while, after I was assigned to a post there again.
The population of Ulan Bator had grown from 500 thousand to 1.2 million, and the city was filled with cars and snarled in traffic jams. In addition to the spate of high-rise building construction, the city basin faced severe problems of air pollution, an aspect that was a total change. Maybe the only thing that hadn’t changed was the frozen winters that were more than forty degrees below zero…. No, no—no need to worry. You can still encounter the idyllic Mongolia of old today, simply by driving for about two hours. You can enjoy the great outdoors to your heart’s content, including horseback riding, catching stringfish, visiting yurts, flocks of sheep, the Mongolian Swiss Lake Khubsugul and reindeer, dinosaur fossils and the Gobi Desert, and the countless stars in the sky.
Mongolia has recently been widely discussed with respect to development of its resources, including gold, silver, copper, and coal. In addition to the abundant copper ore, the southern Gobi region is known to have the largest supply of untapped coking coal. Development of coal is currently underway, and an Australian contractor is using the technology to develop at a well-known coalfield among these, called Tavan Tolgoi. It appears as if an entire town has been transferred over from Australia, and some people refer to it as a Cold Australia.
I hope that this development can proceed in an environmentally friendly way, preserving Mongolia as it was in the past. Perhaps this is where Japanese technology might come in. Someday, I would like to hear that there is a Japan at forty degrees below zero in Mongolia as well.
Marubeni Group magazine "M-SPIRIT" VOL.73 (January, 2013)