In 2013 I made a two-month long journey through Mongolia.
My destination was primarily motivated by my fascination of the nomadic lifestyle and the extraordinary landscapes, the sheer size and void of this country.
But soon I realized that Mongolia is on a particularly interesting point in its development and that the country is characterised by huge contradictions.
Mongolia is at the start of a profound economic transformation, thanks to the exploitation of its huge ore resources, such as copper, uranium and gold.
These developments, however, go hand in hand with major challenges, such as increasing corruption and environmental problems; think of pollution and silting up of pastures. There are initiatives of solar and wind energy. But also enormous air pollution in the capital Ulaan Baatar by firing coal in the freezing winters (temperatures drop to minus 50 degrees).
I wonder if this economic and technological developments are compatible with the traditional, nomadic lifestyle. How can people find a healthy balance between the preservation of their traditions and at the same time a modern society develop?
In which direction the country will develop? Where does the focus has to go to? How can corruption be kept within limits while the revenue of the country will grow tremendously over the next few years by the mining industry? How can the country take full advantage of its wealth of mineral resources and the money bet in such a way that everyone benefits from it, that the quality of the infrastructure is improved, e.g. in the ger districts in Ulaan Baatar where residents are not connected to the water supply network and sewerage systems but also the dated, Russian districtheating is up for renewal, the quality of health care and education have deteriorated since the departure of the Russians in the early 1990s. How do you prevent industrialization from leading to a larger gap between rich and poor but that a healthy middle class is created?
And don’t forget the social problems such as the wide-spread problem of alcoholism and domestic violence. Many young people in UB are unemployed and have little future. On the other hand, many young people left to study abroad and return to their country to contribute to a positive development and progress.