Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The devastating dzud

I wrote in The Shadow Walker about the growing numbers in Mongolia abandoning the nomadic lifestyle for life in the city.  Here's an interesting piece from Transitions Online, a Czech journal covering developments in the post-communist countries.  It reports that 'hundreds of thousands of Mongolians...have been forced to abandon their nomadic herding life for an urban existence in recent years, crowding into Ulaanbaatar, which has doubled its population in less than 20 years.' 

The author adds that 'half of Mongolia's nearly 3 million people now live in the country's capital and other provincial centers', and links the changes to global warming as well as to social, economic and political developments in the country. And the dzud, in case you were wondering, are the 'fierce winter blizzards that sometimes cripple the country'.  The report recounts the story of Namdag, a herder, who 'once owned more than 100 horses, sheep, cows and camels. He lost 90 percent of his animals in the devastating dzud of 1999 and is now jobless. "Only the camels survived," he says.'

And yet some are keen to continue the nomadic life.  One herder Baasanjav is quoted as saying: "I'm not giving up this life...It makes me happy to be out here", adding that: "It's important that our children continue this tradition."

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