Together for a Green And Clean Ulaanbaatar

July 11, 2011

  • Ulaanbaatar is one of the most polluted capitals in the world.
  • It is urgent to raise public awareness of environmental protection so that generations of Mongolians could enjoy economic growth in harmony with nature.
  • The World Bank sponsored an event to call for a greener and cleaner Ulaanbaatar.

Ulaanbaatar, July 11, 2011 — 140 local and international artists performed live for an audience of 1000 in the Cultural Palace, Ulaanbaatar, and a wider audience across the country via live TV broadcast, to bring home an environmental message in Mongolia. The event “Together for a Green and Clean Ulaanbaatar” was co-hosted by the World Bank, the Mongolian and Ulaanbaatar Governments, the Norwegian Development Agency, the Mongolian Music Corporation, and the Ulaanbaatar Broadcasting System (UBS). It was adapted from the Call for Green performances that took place in five Chinese cities in 2007 and 2009

Ulaanbaatar is one of the most polluted capitals in the world. To address the environmental challenges the city faces, the World Bank recognizes that public awareness and full engagement of society have an indispensable role to play.

Throughout the evening, the audience’s emotions were called upon with their hope and actions for creating a green and clean Ulaanbaatar tomorrow. As Mr. Bat, Manager of Ulaanbaatar city, said in his welcoming remarks, “Environmental protection has become one of the most critical tasks for our government”.

In winter, air pollution concentrations in the city rank the highest in the world. This is due in part to the stoves that the poorest inhabitants use in their gers(the transportable dwelling of the Mongolian nomads) to heat and cook. While people flock to Ulaanbaatar to seek better economic opportunities, it also puts the city under stress from an environmental perspective.

“Ulaanbaatar may be the coldest capital in the world but it doesn’t need to be the most polluted too” said Coralie Gevers, Country Manager for the World Bank. The World Bank, along with a range of partners such as Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) , are actively working with the government in finding short-term as well as longer-term solutions.

“In Norway, we have learned that it is very important that people become aware of the fight against pollution and are willing to participate in the creation of a better environment,” said Gunnvor Berge, Development Counselor of the Norway Embassy in Beijing. “We trust this event will provide a local platform for further addressing the environmental issues in Ulaanbaatar.”

The audience was first provoked by a shortened version of the play “An Enemy of the People”. The drama, which was written 130 years ago by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen but was set in contemporary Ulaanbaatar by drama producer Naidandorj, illustrates a conflict between environmental, health and economic interests within a small city The story displays the full range of interests that come into play in such situation: politicians, private sector, citizens, and media. Thanks to the actors’ exceptional performance, the story rang as true today with the Mongolian audience as it did 130 years ago in Norway.

The audience was then invited to experience environmental issues with eyes and ears. With the backdrop of a film illustrating the creation, beauty, destruction and restoration of nature, the Mongolian Philharmonic Orchestra interpreted the symphony “A Green Call” built upon selected themes from the Yellow River and Keith Emerson piano concertos. This was an opportunity to highlight some findings from an upcoming World Bank report on the air and health situation in Ulaanbaatar. On a cold winter day, the concentration of particulate matters is often 35 times higher than the WHO standards. It is estimated that 1,600 people die prematurely in Ulaanbaatar every year due to the high air pollution.

Many other Mongolian artists came together for this evening. For example, composer Sansargereltekh composed a new piece SOS (Save Our Selves) which was premiered during the event. As a special tribute to air and water pollution control initiatives in Ulaanbaatar, the piece combined traditional Mongolian long singing, flute and drums with a modern band, electric violin and the full symphony orchestra. As the famous Mongolian long singer Khongorzul sang her last notes, the audience burst out into a big “bravo”.

The evening ended with a children choir, the Blue Mongolia’s Ensemble, accompanying the promising young female singer Otgonjargal. Together with the Mongolian Philharmonic Orchestra, they performed “Hope for Tomorrow” which was composed by Jostein Nygard, an environmental specialist at the World Bank who is also the mastermind of the event.

Further technical events to present the study results and to enhance a coordinated action are planned for the Fall.