Press Conference by Minister of Environment of Mongolia

Preview Language:   English
25-Jun-1997 00:28:09
Mongolia's Government will immediately expand the country's environmentally protected area from 10 per cent to 15 per cent of its territory, with 30 per cent of the country ultimately being turned into national parks and other protected areas, the State's Minister for the Environment, Adyasuren Tsohio, told reporters at a Headquarters press conference this morning.

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The conference was also addressed by the Under-Secretary for Global Affairs in the United States Department of State, Timothy Wirth, and Mongolia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Jargalsaikhany Enkhsaikhan.

The park expansion plan, the Minister said, will include a phased programme to protect Mongolia's ecosystems and biodiversity. Priority protection would be given to lands with unique and endangered mammals, such as the Bactrian camel, the Gobi Desert bear, the Endemis Saiga antelope, the Argali sheep, the Siberian ibex and the snow leopards in the Altai and other mountains. Historically and culturally significant sites would also be protected under the plan.

In protecting its flora and fauna, he said, Mongolia's development of park management systems must permit the exploitation of oil and other resources critical to its economy. Mongolia will seek international help for its goals of environmental protection and economic development. It would also encourage tourism to provide resources for maintaining the country's park system.

Providing background on Mongolia's environment, the Minister said that over 41 per cent of the country's 605,000 square miles was arid and about 8.3 per cent covered by forests. Most of Mongolia was located on one of the world's largest watersheds. The country's socio-economic and environmental conditions were directly affected by global climatic changes. For example, one-third of pasture land and three-fourths of arable land were degraded by those changes. Frequent forest and steppes fires in the last two years were also connected to the changes which affected Mongolia's economic development in its transition to a market economy. One-quarter of the population lives below the minimum living standard.

The United States Under-Secretary for Global Affairs, Mr. Wirth, expressed his Government's appreciation for what he called Mongolia's impressive environmental protection efforts. Other countries should join the United States in helping Mongolia realize its environmental goals.

In a subsequent question-and-answer session, the Minister was asked whether the conference of north-east Asian States on the transit problems of land-locked countries, held three weeks ago in Ulaanbaatar, would affect

Mongolia's environmental problems. He replied that participants at the conference -- the first of its kind -- had adopted the Ulaanbaatar Memorandum of Understanding, which envisaged the possibility of turning the region into a land bridge between Europe and Asia.

Asked to describe Mongolia's worst environmental problems, he said the country's biggest headache was desertification, since more than 40 per cent of its territory was dry and easily degradable. Furthermore, a lot of Mongolia's pastoral land had already been degraded. There were some problems of pollution, too.

In response to a question on whether Mongolia will restrict the kind of technology it accepted from the industrialized world, he answered in the affirmative. Even though it was using chemicals, such as sulfuric acid, to extract minerals, such as copper, Mongolia had established strict regulations on the development of its industrial projects. Its parliament had enacted a law on toxic chemicals two years ago and the administration last year joined the convention on the handling of toxic wastes. As for the kind of assistance it would accept, Mongolia would only take "clean" technology and restrict the importation of "old" ones.

When his view on greenhouse gas reduction target was sought, he expressed support for the goal of cutting the emission of those gases by 15 per cent of 1990 levels by the year 2010. His country supported the "Group of 77" developing countries' position on the matter and wanted industrialized nations to contribute 0.7 per of gross national product (GNP) for official development assistance (ODA).

Asked whether he was disappointed that the "European Union was back- pedalling away from the emission target", he answered, "Yes."
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