Mongolian herders clash with security forces over land dispute

Peaceful Assembly

On 17th October, nearly 200 local Mongolian herders from Sandag Gachaa took part in three-day protests to halt a proposed pig farm project. The herders allege that China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO Group) have illegally occupied land that has traditionally been used for grazing. The proposed pig farm, supported by Chinese authorities, would also have a devastating impact on the local environment. One activist at the protest commented

'Not only is this a flagrant denial of our traditional pastoralist way of life...but also this will bring a further destruction to the already devastated natural environment.'

The local authorities dispatched a dozen police vehicles with more than 400 riot police to put down the protest. Many were beaten, and at least three herders were arrested and detained. 

Throughout late December, January & February, thousands of Mongolians gathered on the streets of Ulaanbaatar in a series of protests that urged the government to address the issue of air pollution. Activists claim that the thick smog and poor air conditions are particularly unhealthy for children. A recent investigation by the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF), found that high levels of smoking in conjunction with widespread coal combustion are responsible for the curtain of soot over the city. By some measures, Ulaanbaatar is one of the most polluted cities in the world; with air quality in winter 80 times worse than the recommended limit. A local child from Ulaanbaatar commented on the daily reality of living with such severe air pollution: 

'When I go to school, it is very smoggy and I can’t see anything. When I cross the road in the morning on my way to school, I can’t tell if the light is red or green.'

The demonstrators gathered in a public square in front of government offices, holding banners with slogans calling upon Mongolian authorities to tackle the issue. Despite Mongolian authorities claiming they had spent  $37 million, and international donors spending $47 million between 2011 and 2015 in an effort to solve the problem, many are still unable to afford electric heaters which could replace the burning of coal for heating. There are no reports of any of the protests turning violent.