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Environment and health
Freshwater ecosystems of Mongolia are subject to increasing and multiplying threats, including overgrazing, dams and irrigation systems, growing urbanization, mining and gravel extraction, climate change impact and lack of water management policies and institutional framework (Batnasan, 2003).
The Asia Foundationís Securing Our Future (SOF) programme is a three-year initiative designed to promote the sustainable use of Mongoliaís natural resources that is focused on responsible mining and land-use practices. It is being jointly implemented by The Asia Foundation, The Netherlands, and a coalition of non-governmental, public and private sector partners. The overall purpose of the programme is to ensure that future mining activities in Mongolia generate long-term benefits for the people of Mongolia without compromising the nationís ecological and social heritage.
SOF involves seven programme areas. Maximum community participation is sought in the decision-making process, in long-term collective management and use of the countryís vast natural resources. One of the seven areas focusses on the development of a Mongolian river water quality monitoring network. This will enlist citizens and students to work in partnership with Mongolian and expatriate scientific experts in the collection and dissemination of data on the quality of river water across the nation. It will lead to the compilation of a complete ecological inventory of Mongolian waterways (Asia Foundation, 2010).
Overuse of groundwater resources and climate change has led to lowering of the groundwater table, which has consequently caused some springs, lakes and their associated ecosystems to dry up.
Since the systematic observation period, from 1940 onwards, serious floods have been observed at Mongolia rivers, which have caused severe property damage and loss of life. About 18 flood events have been observed from 1996 to 1999 and have resulted in 54 lives lost and much property damages (Davaa et al., 2007).
Out of 10 000 cases of diarrhoea every year, almost 70 percent have occurred in the capital Ulaanbaatar. Dysentery and hepatitis are also common. These infections stem from a lack of access to safe water and sanitation infrastructure (UN, 2006a).