China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Climate change in Mongolia is expected to have a variety of effects ranging from desertification of steppe environments, increased forest and grass fires, and earlier snowmelt. With these foreseen and in some places experienced impacts, comes the need to develop mitigation plans. Flowing through central Mongolia and into the Selenge River, which feeds Lake Baikal in Russia, is the Orhon River. One of the more radical plans proposed by the Mongolian Government is to pipe excess snowmelt that may flood areas around the Orhon River to the Gobi Desert. As mining operations continue and are expected to increase in the future, large amounts of water resources are needed to support mines and local populations. While the 900-kilometer pipeline is unlikely to ever be built due to domestic and international opposition as well as the high price tag, the project in itself demonstrates how Mongolia’s resource governance policies often rely on large-scale, attention-grabbing projects. The pipeline is also a focal point for tensions between local residents and officials in mining-effected areas of South Gobi province who argue their water resources are dwindling, mining companies who require more water resources, Mongolian resource management agencies, environmentalists, the World Bank, and Russian interests in Lake Baikal. This paper draws on fieldwork conducted in Mongolia in 2011, 2012, and 2015 as well as document analysis to analyze this plan within the context of Mongolia’s resource governance strategies and climate change.