Where is my dear Tuul?
Our dear Tuul has disappeared. When springtime comes, I run alongside the Tuul River. However, when I came up to Ih Tenger’s bridge this morning, I could not find the Tuul. I saw nothing but rocks and gravel where it once flowed. I even went through Bogd Mountain’s three passes, but I still could not come across the Tuul River.
Where is our dear Tuul? Even though Tuul River’s stream diminishes in spring, it should increase after ice melts down.
Why can we not see the river today? In the 1960s, when I was a kid, I used to swim in the waters of Dund Gol and was afraid of going into the strong, wide streams of the Tuul River. At that time, people could also enjoy swimming in Selbe River and Uliastai River. As Ulaanbaatar expanded, the rivers started to dry up one by one and the Queen Tuul, the symbol of Khalkh Mongolia, is facing the same fate today. Scholar M.Zenee once said that when someone from Ulaanbaatar gave Inner Mongolians a candy as a present in 1990s, they considered the candy as a precious treat made of the waters of the Queen Tuul.
Drinking water is the most valuable
Even though the Tuul River’s basin comprises only 3% of our territory, it serves as the source of drinking water for more than the half of our population. On top of that, it supplies over 20,000 factories, 400 hectares of agricultural land, 330,000 livestock, and three big power stations with water and 350,000 cars are being washed with water from the Tuul River.
The Water Authority has stated that each year Ulaanbaatar drains 77 cubic meters of water from the underground reserves of the Tuul River basin in order to fulfill those needs. At this rate, we are going to run out of drinking water unless we decrease the use of it and stop destroying our Tuul River. One liter of pure water will cost 5,000 MNT in only a few years.
The main cause that triggered the water resources deficit is embouchure and shoreline plant cover erosion, plus deforestation. Bushes that grew alongside the banks of Tuul River have almost vanished entirely.
Additionally, eroded soil from ger districts and dust from unpaved roads, construction projects, sand and gravel industries and brick factories are flowing into the Tuul River after being washed away by flood or rainwater and almost 1 million cubic meter of waste from all types of activities in Ulaanbaatar finds its way into the river as well.
Ulaanbaatar Administration, which is supposed to regulate these issues, is encouraging the illegal use of land by issuing unplanned licenses. Therefore, the difference between specially protected and normally protected areas around the source of water supply has disappeared and the drinking water security of Ulaanbaatar is being breached.
What to do now?
Let us promote the value of water. How many hours can we live without water? Why are we not protecting water, the source of life?
During his recent visit to Mongolia, Peter Brabeck, the Chairman of Nestle Corporation, the largest food company in the world, said that it takes three liters of water to produce one liter of fruit juice and six liters to produce one liter of beer. We use even greater amount of water to produce other food products and for agricultural crops, but we never take water into account when calculating a product’s price.
It costs almost nothing to wash a car with drinking water in Ulaanbaatar or to just drink it. Drinking and household water in developing countries is very expensive and water can only be recycled 6-7 times.
Singapore now uses rainwater properly. Malaysians buy their drinking water and they understand perfectly well that water is worth more than gold.
South Africans use a certain amount of water every month for free and they pay more if the set level of water use is exceeded.
It is time we started to charge those who misused drinking water including washing cars and installed a water recycler that collects and filters used water. Furthermore, such requirements need to be introduced to production of drinking water. Instead of trying to make people move, it would be better to increase price of water and impose additional charges depending on the pollution level.
Also, we will need to increase the property tax imposed on apartments built in the Tuul River basin so that it would be more than that of other areas. In addition, special taxes need to be introduced to buildings and productions using the resources of the Tuul River basin.
Mining companies should be imposed with different taxes depending on if they are using recycled water or not.
How can we live on if the Tuul River ceases to exist? I wrote an article “Abandoned Tuul” a year ago and I would like to repeat what I said at the end of that article, “They say fish are the only animals that keep silent when it is captured, stays silent when it is skinned and definitely silent when it is fried. The citizens of Ulaanbaatar hopefully have not all turned into fish. Isn’t it time to elect a mayor ourselves and hold responsible those who step on our interests, disturb our property, and kill our Tuul River?”
Translated by B.AMAR