Cities depend on nature
Many essential services provided by local governments depend on and impact the ecosystems around them, either nearby or further afield. With Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, the case is no different, as the city relies heavily on water sourced from the Upper Tuul Valley.1
Ulaanbaatar is Mongolia’s centre for commerce and industry and generates nearly 70 percent of national production. It has over one million people, 20,000 industries and businesses and 400 hectares of irrigated farms. This makes the Upper Tuul Valley arguably the most important ecosystem in the country because it serves as the source of all of Ulaanbaatar’s water. Furthermore, the Tuul Valley is a major domestic and international tourism centre for Mongolia.
A healthy upstream ecosystem helps to ensure a clean and regular groundwater resource for Ulaanbataar. But the Upper Tuul watershed is being degraded by deforestation through pasture and timber production due to development in the area and increasing resource demands. As a consequence, the city faces problems with its water supply, as the demand for water is greater than the ability of the aquifer to recharge. As the Upper Tuul ecosystem is degraded and land cover is lost, more shortages of water are expected. Analysis was carried out to assess the economic impacts of the Tuul watershed degradation.
Nature is good for your budget
The Government of Mongolia and the World Bank initiated a study to better understand the ways in which the natural environment contributes to the economy.2
The study found that the Upper Tuul watershed generates valuable ecosystem services, which benefit local communities, the residents of Ulaanbaatar, and even the global community. The conservation and sustainable use scenario is estimated to yield a Present Value, over 25 years, of USD 1.15 billion (Tug 1,370 billion).3
Looking at the additional water values generated, the study findings suggested that every Tug invested in conserving the Upper Tuul ecosystem would generate economic benefits of more than Tug 15.
More than a nice sunset
The study found that the Tuul Valley provides various ecosystem services to local and surrounding areas, the most important being the supply of clean water. However other ecosystem services were also vital to local communities: Around 170 thousand hectares of land are used for grazing and just under 8,500 cubic meters of firewood, 3,300 cubic meters of timber and 20,000 kg of fruits, berries, wild vegetables, pine nuts and medicinal plants are harvested. Tourism is also a major source of revenue and it was found that every year almost a million tourist bednights are spent in the Upper Tuul. Furthermore, the analysis found that ecosystem degradation has serious economic and development consequences. If the Upper Tuul river ecosystem continues to be degraded the loss of watershed services will cost the Mongolian economy a total of USD 338 million over the next 25 years.
The wealth of water
Many countries are already facing severe water shortages and these are likely to get more serious; by 2025 around three billion people could be experiencing water stress.4 Hydrologists are turning to natural ecosystems for key water services. Well-managed natural forests almost always provide higher quality water, with less sediment and pollutants than water from other catchments. Other natural habitats, including wetlands and grassland, also play a key role in reducing pollution levels. These values are recognized and used by many local governments. Research has shown that around a third (33 out of 105) of the world’s largest cities by population obtain a significant proportion of their drinking water directly from protected areas or from forests that are managed in a way that gives priority to maintaining their hydrological system functions.5
What can I do?
There are a number of things you can do to help manage our water resources more efficiently. You can check out websites for tips to conserve water in your day to day life.
You can get involved in community watershed management programmes. You can also join our Facebook group and twitter feed to give or gain suggestions from our online community on all the topics raised around our website.
For more examples of successful water management please see our Oceans blogs.
For further resources:
WANI toolkit: The IUCN Water and Nature Initiative (WANI) together with 80+ partner organizations has developed a toolkit for practitioners to demonstrate best practice water management (incl. case studies) that supports healthy rivers and communities.
- TEEBcase by K. Almack and M. Chatreaux based on Emerton et al. 2009 (2010) Watershed services crucial for economic development, Mongolia, available at: http://www.eea.europa.eu/teeb/watershed-services-crucial-for-economic.pdf Emerton, L., N. Erdenesaikhan, B. De Veen, D. Tsogoo, L. Janchivdorj, P. Suvd, B. Enkhtsetseg, G. Gandolgor, Ch.Dorisuren, D. Sainbayar, and A. Enkhbaatar. 2009. The Economic Value of the Upper Tuul Ecosystem. Mongolia Discussion Papers, East Asia and Pacific Sustainable Development Department. Washington, D.C.: World Bank. [↩]
- Emerton, L., N. Erdenesaikhan, B. De Veen, D. Tsogoo, L. Janchivdorj, P. Suvd, B. Enkhtsetseg, G. Gandolgor, Ch.Dorisuren, D. Sainbayar, and A. Enkhbaatar (2009) The Economic Value of the Upper Tuul Ecosystem. Mongolia Discussion Papers, East Asia and Pacific Sustainable Development Department. Washington, D.C.: World Bank. [↩]
- At an exchange rate as of 31st Dec 2007 [↩]
- TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers, Chapter 1 page 14, Box 1.2. Source: Human Development Report (2006) ‘Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis’, United Nations Development Programme. New York. [↩]
- TEEB for National Policy Makers executive Summary, page 19, Box 11. Source: Dudley, n. and Stolton, s. (2003) Running Pure: The importance of forest protected areas to drinking water. World Bank / WWf alliance for forest conservation and sustainable use. WWf, gland, switzerland. (last access: nov 6, 2009). [↩]