Tag: genghis khan

The 26th Annual Chinggis Khaan Memorial Ceremony


Genghis-Khan-WC-9308634-1-402

The Mongol-American Cultural Association

Celebrates

The 26th Annual Chinggis Khan Memorial Ceremony

Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 1:00 PM
Princeton Marriott at Forrestal Hotel, Princeton, New Jersey

PROGRAM

Byambakhuu Darinchuluun, Master of Ceremonies

1:00 PM Opening Welcome, Sanj Altan, MACA
1:10 PM Chinggis Khaan Memorial Ritual
1:45 PM His Excellency B. Altangerel, Ambassador of Mongolia to the United States
2:00 PM Mr. Ch. Munkhbayar, President, Southern Mongolian Cultural Association

Greetings

2:15 PM Mr. Akram Gizabi, Hazara Community
Mr. B. Tumenulzii, Uvur Mongol community
Ms. Tsybikova Darima, Buriat Community
Ms. Nadbitova Tamara, Kalmyk Community
Mr. Eres Salchak, Tyvan community
Mr. Tegshjargal, “Unuudur” Newspaper Journalist
3:00 PM Ms. D. Otgonjargal, Ms. A. Jegjee, Mongolian School

Auction

3:10 PM Mongolian Children’s Aid and Development Fund Auction
3:30 PM Break

Cultural Segment

4:00 PM “Magtaal” Ensemble
4:45 PM Mr. Erdeni, Ms. Sichigma and Mr. Adis
5:30 PM Mr. Amarburen, Ms. Bolormaa, Mr. Tsengelsaikhaan, …….Mongolian Dance Company & Operatic Singers

Reception

6:15 PM Reception in honor of the artists (Mongolian cuisine, cash bar)

Cultural Segment

7:15 PM Mr. Delekhei
8:00 PM Ms. Sainkho Namtschylak

After Party

8:45 PM Mongol Party by DJ Baagi Beatz
11:45 PM Close

SUGGESTED DONATIONS:

If reserved BEFORE 11/16: $30 Adults, $10 Students
If reserved ON 11/16: $30 Adults, $15 Youth (13+), $5 Children

It is better to reserve via our website BEFORE 11/16th!

Reservation.
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Mongolian Fest in Central Park Offers Wrestling and Genghis Khan Vodka


SourceDNAinfo.com New York

By Louie Lazar
Special to DNAinfo.com New York

3

CENTRAL PARK — In a scene that could have been straight from the grasslands of Mongolia, two pairs of wrestlers, each bare-chested except for a tight-sleeved vest around his shoulders, engaged in face-to-face battle — hands locked, arms outstretched, in a bid to take down his opponent.

But that scene on Saturday afternoon was instead taking place in a small meadow near Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain.

Nearby, on a long table filled with Mongolian fare, a few men poured vodka from a tall, gold bottle decorated with an image of Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire.

“It’s good to get together and keep this tradition alive,” said Jamul Jadamba, 37, who finished second in the wrestling competition, before changing into a T-shirt that said “Yes We Khan.”

The wrestling competition was the highlight of the New York Mongolian community’s Naadam celebration, an annual festival commemorating Mongolia’s independence as well as the nation’s nomadic heritage.

About 75 people, including Od Och, the permanent representative of Mongolia to the United Nations, attended Saturday’s event, which was organized by the Mongolian Heritage Foundation of Flushing, Queens.

Byambakhuu Darinchuluun, president of the Mongol Heritage Foundation, said the goal of the event was to bring unity to the various Mongol peoples of the greater New York area and to promote Mongolian culture to the general population.

Darinchuluun said that in order to best replicate the pastoral environment of his homeland, he selected Central Park as a venue because it’s the “only place [in New York] with trees and grass.”

“It’s a very important occasion — we cannot just pass it over,” he said. “We have to celebrate.”

Naadam, also known as the “Three Games of Men” or the Nomad Olympics — the other sports being archery and horse racing — has its roots in centuries-old Mongol warrior competitions. In 2010, the festival was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Each July 11 and 12 in Mongolia, thousands fill the capital city’s main stadium and welcome a procession of horsemen, athletes, soldiers, and monks during a colorful and joyous Opening Ceremony. Horse races take place across miles of open grasslands, as do hundreds of single elimination wrestling matches in which the winners are given titles such as “falcon,” “elephant,” and “lion.”

Landlocked between China and Russia, Mongolia has one of the lowest population densities of any nation on earth. But there are several hundred Mongolians living in the New York City area, according to Morris Rossabi, a professor of Mongolian History at Columbia University.

The greater New York area is also home to a sizable Kalmyk population, people of Mongol descent who are from Kalmykia, a Russian Republic on the Caspian Sea, he said.

Several of Saturday’s attendees dressed in traditional Mongolian costumes, and the top outfits were rewarded with prizes. The best wrestlers were given framed pictures of Mongolian calligraphy and were handed wads of cash.

Attached to a nearby rocky hill was the flag of Kalmykia, and at its base, a horse-headed fiddle — a long, double-stringed musical instrument that is a national symbol of Mongolia, rested against a picnic table. The Mongolian flag was staked almost precisely in the center of the meadow, and waved in the hot air.

Tsenguun Chinbat, 27, a teacher who is from Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, said she attended the festivities to connect and socialize with fellow Mongolians.

“I wanted to get a feel for home,” she said.

Inaugural Address by Tsakhia ELBEGDORJ, President of Mongolia

Inaugural Address by Tsakhia ELBEGDORJ, President of Mongolia


 

Mongolia’s President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, wearing traditional Mongolian clothing, takes oath at his inauguration after being re-elected, in front of the statue of Genghis Khan outside the national parliament building in downtown Ulan Bator July 10, 2013

 

A day celebrating Mongolic identity, solidarity, and diversity in Princeton, New Jersey


March 7, 2013: A March 2013 issue of the eTolbo has been published with additional material covering the 2012 Chinggis Khan Ceremony. Please make sure to read the well-written, first-person account of one of the attendees of the Chinggis Khan Ceremony! Many thanks to  Sansar Tsakhirmaa
I first became aware of the Mongol American Cultural Association (MACA) when I was googling for information on Mongolic communities based in the U.S. approximately four years ago. By visiting MACA’s website for the first time, I was also informed that a ceremony-featuring ethnocommunal gathering has been held on a yearly basis since the late 1980s. Having long yearned for connecting to the small,dispersed, but proud Mongolic communities in the American Northeast, in November,2012, I was lucky enough to reach Princeton and witness in person the burgeoning spirit of Mongolic identity, solidarity, and diversity that would not be similarly feltelsewhere. Not a historian, I’m not going to recount the founding myths of Mongolic peoples. Not a poet, I’m not going to couch my feeling with the event in literary phrases. Instead, as a student of social science, I consider that November day as one raising the consciousness of Mongolic identity, solidarity, and diversity within our diasporic communities and inviting further dialogues and even brotherly supports across our communities in Mongolia-the-independent-state, Southern Mongolia, Kalmyk, Buryatia, Tuva, and Hazaristan. Ethno national identity tells one who he or she is, who he or she is not,and of which group he or she may claim membership. The shared distinct self-identification of being ethnically Mongolic, regardless of whatever tribal affiliations, whatever religious practices, whatever linguistic nuances, whatever historical trajectories,would not have been around without an essentially similar collective memory of the political entity founded by Chinggis Khan centuries ago that gave rise to what is later known as a common claim to be Mongolic. However, in our times, such a common allegiance has rarely been hailed in an all-inclusive manner until MACA’s magnanimous efforts. While those from Mongolia-the-independent-state may not only claim their Mongolic identity but also be recognized as such, those of Mongolic heritages but from outside Mongolia may have, to varying extent, to inhibit their Mongolic identities for practical reasons. In this regard, the génie of Chinggis Khan Memorial Ceremony consists in its offering an opportunity for Mongolic peoples outside Mongolia the-independent-state to jointly and unfetteredly assert their
Mongolic identities, even if that lasts for only one day. Thus, many of our ethnic kins who may use non-Mongolic languages in daily life drove hundreds of miles for the annual gathering simply to “reboot” the aspect of their identity for which they want recognition and preservation.If coming together in honor of Chinggis Khan were all about identity, then we might ignore how much the event is also meant for promoting greater mutual contact,understanding, network, kinship, and even empathetic feelings among different Mongolic groups, among individuals within a group,and among individuals across groups. I positively noticed that attendees, different Mongolic groups as they represent, were not necessarily concentrated according to specific group or regional identities, but presented a tendency to seat themselves randomly, which had the potential of facilitating conversations between individuals who might previously have had little knowledge about one another’s Mongolic heritage. The event was also my first of its kind where members of different Mongolic groups had an opportunity to appreciate one another’s music, songs, and dances all within one sitting. I was no less impressed with the already-established cross-group networks evinced at the reception where members of different Mongolic groups were able to proactively approach one another. A day of building consciousness of one an other’s existence and experience may pave way for further interactions conducive to the development of emotional attachment. Such attachment will be indispensable in order to genuinely bind various Mongolic groups together by transcending the linguistic, religious,cultural, historical,and political barriers that give them myriad justifications not to build solidarity with one another. Solidarity building does not need to come at the expense of the amazingly diverse historical, cultural, religious, and linguistic heritages various Mongolic peoples claim. If MACA designates this annual ceremonial event for allowing people of Mongolic roots to assert a common identity as well as for generating greater cohesion among them, then it can equally be understood as a stage on which for Mongolic peoples to share with one another the unique and distinct aspect of their identity.
The dancers and singers from Mongolia-the-independent-state represented the most-blossoming and best-supported of Mongolic cultural traditions by showcasing the biyelgee dance as well as the inebriatingly beautiful operatic singing’s developed out of folk songs (ardiin duu). In the meantime, the band from the Ordos subregion of Southern Mongolia signaled to attendees a persistent and unrelenting pride Southern Mongolians take in their Mongolic identity by graciously blending both ethnic andpopular elements into their rendition and by offering a medley of Southern Mongolian folk songs that people like me have been so much missing. Buryat artist Namgar Lkhasaranova and the other two ethnomusicians demonstrated the highly distinct musical heritage of the Buryat people in Southern Siberia that I had not been able to contemplate until at the event. As the first Mongolic community settled in the U.S. and the most significant proponents of MACA, Kalmyks dedicated their fusion of Oiratic and North Caucasus traditions, which again invited various Mongolic peoples to marvel at our diversity. Though subjected to mass deportation in the mid-1940s, Kalmyks not only maintained their ethnic morale, but also initiated the presence of Mongolic peoples in the U.S. The representation of the Iranic-speaking Hazara people at the ceremony can also be marked as an example of re-oriented ethnonational consciousness and of the tremendous cultural and historical diversity among Mongolic peoples we have yet to explore. Hereby, another génie of MACA’s annual Chinggis Khan Memorial Ceremony is its serving as probably the only occasion, tomy knowledge, to be able to integrate a widest possible range of Mongolic diversity into one theme.
Thanks to pioneers of our senior generations from Southern Mongolia (Övör Mongol),Kalmykia (Xalimag), and Mongolia-the-independent-state (Ar Mongol) who sowed the seeds for a Pan-Mongolic communal tradition in the U.S., this annual gathering has been hopefully achieving a threefold mission: commemorating a common founding hero, Chinggis Khan, who laid the foundation for the distinct identities Mongolic peoples hail today, congregating people of various Mongolic heritages to facilitate their mutual understandings as well as to revive ethnic kinship that has been historically undermined, as well as consolidating support from the greater U.S. society with regard to issues concerning the Mongolic world. In retrospect, this year we have had music and dance heritages of Mongolia-the-independent-state, Southern Mongolia, Kalmykia, Buryatia represented. In prospect, perhaps next year there would be those of Tuva and Hazaristan added?

 

Mongol Naadam Washington DC Area


Washington DC Mongolian Community Association Presents:
Annual DC-Arlington Mongolian Community summer “Naadam” – a sports and music celebration featuring Mongolian wrestling competition, children’s foot races, traditional songs and dances, and party .
Naadam program
  • Opening Ceremony
  • Mongolian  Tradional songs and dances
  • Greetings from Jargalsaikhan Mongolian State Honored Singer ,”Chinggis Khaan”  Band
  • Mongolian Traditional Wrestling
  •  Official Naadam Celebration Closing  Party    7:00 pm  at Harvest Moon  (7260 Arlington Boulevard  Falls Church, VA 22042 )
Children’s Program
  • Children’s wrestling
  • Children’s foot races
  • Children’s play area ( Moon bounce, face painting, ice cream )
Where:
Barcroft Park in Arlington, VA (4200 S. Four Mile Run Dr. Arlington, VA 22206)
When: July 8, 2012  11:00 am til -5:00pm
Cost:  5$!

The Kalmyks: The Mongols who were left Behind


 

This film was created by Dechen Kelden, a Kalmyk Mongolian who was born and raised in Jackson, NJ. She is a current student at Sarah Lawrence College who took on this project to create an accessible film for young Kalmyks to learn about their history as an Oirat group from the Western Steppes of Mongolia. She is interested in Cultural Preservation studies and working within the Tibetan community based in New York City.
This film is currently a sample and will be expanded upon in the near future with additional interviews and a possible Russian translation.

Any questions or comments please email kalmykmovie@yahoo.com

Directed by Dechen Kelden
Produced and Edited by Tenzin Wangchuk

 

Meet the Kalmyks

Meet the Kalmyks


A tiny Jersey ethnic group traces its roots to Mongolia and Genghis Khan.

Route 9 and Freehold suggest Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and the lyrics, “Sprung from cages on Highway 9” and “Baby, this town rips the bones from your back.” They don’t conjure up the quietude of the three Buddhist temples and the Mongolian people known as the Kalmyks I encountered recently just off Route 9 and just south of Freehold.

Never heard of the Kalmyks? Neither had I, until I learned that this group of approximately 3,000 people—mostly New Jerseyans centered in Howell Township—is celebrating its 60th anniversary as Americans in 2011. New Jersey must indeed be the nation’s most ethnically diverse state if we have ethnic groups most of us have never even heard of. This year’s New Jersey Folk Festival, which often focuses on one of the state’s ethnic groups—its music, dance, and folklore—is featuring the Kalmyks on April 30 at an all-day event on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

The Kalmyks’ native land, Kalmykia, is one of the republics of the former USSR that remains within the Russian Federation today, with a population of about 350,000. It is the only predominantly Mongol and Buddhist land in Europe. Many Kalmyks, siding with the Whites against the Reds, fled the Soviet Union during the Bolshevik Revolution, and the remaining Kalmyks were deported to Siberia during World War II because of alleged anti-Soviet sympathies. It was not until 1951 that Kalmyks began to come to New Jersey. Earlier, they had been rejected under the Asian Exclusion Acts (repealed in 1943) and immigration quotas based on race (repealed in 1965). They found an ally in the United States Attorney General who argued that since Kalmykia is in European Russia, the Kalmyks are Europeans not Asians, going so far as to insist that they are “Caucasians”—which is silly, but so is racism.

Virtually all of the Kalmyks who began coming to New Jersey in 1951 had spent the years after World War II in displaced persons camps in Germany. They ended up there because, as the Nazis began their long retreat after the Battle of Stalingrad, some Kalmyks followed, staying just ahead of the Soviet Army.

Russian emigres living in the Howell area and the Tolstoy Foundation, which assists new immigrants, were instrumental in sponsoring the Kalmyks in New Jersey. In addition to the Kalmyk Buddhist temples there are several Russian Orthodox churches in Howell, as evidenced by their onion-shaped domes. Howell and Lakewood, farther south on Route 9, are thriving centers of Russo-American culture in New Jersey. (There also is a small Kalmyk contingent with one temple in Philadelphia.)

Originally a nomadic people, the Kalmyks were one of the innumerable tribes united by Genghis Khan in the course of conquering much of Europe and Asia in the 12th and early 13th centuries. When the Mongolian Empire faded into retreat, the Kalmyks were incorporated into Russia.

American Kalmyks speak English, of course, but may also speak Russian and Kalmyk. Anyone who has seen the Star Wars movies has heard Kalmyk spoken. It is the language of the Ewoks, those furry, cuddly bipeds living on the moon of Endor who, you may recall, were easily understood by the linguistically gifted robot, C-3PO.

It is almost as if one is on a New Jersey version of the moon of Endor when standing on Kalmuk Road (Kalmyk is spelled in a variety of ways) just short of where it becomes a dirt road leading to the Tashi Lhunpo Temple. The street may be considered the physical center of Kalmyk life in New Jersey; it inspired the title of a book in 2004, The Street—Kalmuk Road.

I find myself inside the temple’s social hall along with Maria Taunov and Augnel “Alta” Buruschkin, and also a monk serving us tea. I am told that the way to greet a monk is with a two-handed handshake, one’s forehead lowered onto the linked hands. The monk good-naturedly laughs at my clumsy greeting.

Most monks in Kalmyk temples are Tibetans. The Dalai Lama, recognized as the spiritual leader of the Kalmyks, has visited the Howell temples. Says Buruschkin, “I get up at 5 am every day and chant my prayers for two hours. This is what the Dalai Lama does, and I try to pattern myself after His Holiness.”
On arriving in their new land, most Kalmyks entered the building trades but, over the years, gravitated into electronics, professional careers and white-collar jobs. Buruschkin works for a consulting company. Taunov is a legal assistant at a New York City law firm, commuting to work and chanting her morning prayers quietly on the bus. On weekends she chants them at the altar found in most Kalmyk homes.

Taunov also teaches Buddhist principles to children at one of the temples on weekends. “There are great assimilationist pressures,” she says. “I know who I am, but I want Kalmyk children to know who they are.” Kalmyk families tend to be closer than other American families. Many households are multigenerational, and there is great deference paid to the elders as well as veneration of ancestors. “American freedom and openness are wonderful,” Taunov says, “but they make for more intermarriage and fewer children, because Kalmyk women, like other American women, don’t want to be confined to the home.”

I was introduced to Taunov and Buruschkin by Nicholas Olefer Jr., a Caucasian of Russian descent who is a convert to Buddhism and is on the New Jersey Folk Festival board. Olefer lives in Westchester County and practices and receives instruction at a Buddhist monastery in Carmel, New York. “No one cares who you are in a Buddhist environment; they care who your teacher is,” Olefer explains.

The Kalmyks believe in reincarnation—as do Hindus—but they prefer the term “rebirth.” I can’t say I really understand the difference, but I was struck by the eerie sincerity with which Buruschkin told me, “I lived during Buddha’s time, but I didn’t pay attention. Now I’m paying attention.”

Later in the day, the three took me to Rashi Gempil-Ling, another of the Buddhist temples just off Route 9. There were two buildings, a small one essentially empty except for a large prayer wheel—a round, beautifully decorated device believed to contain a million printed prayers wrapped around a central core. “We spin the wheel as a means of getting our prayers to multiply as they fly out into the world,” says Buruschkin, who has a small prayer wheel in his home.

We removed our shoes and entered the temple, where a service was going on. Everyone sat on the floor on pillows. One was handed to me, and I did my best to resurrect an earlier familiarity with the lotus position, only to develop a cramp in my left leg. The service was presided over by Art Engle, a Caucasian lay-teacher married to a Kalmyk woman. Engle has a PhD. in Buddhist studies from the University of Wisconsin. The service was conducted in Tibetan, and Engle swayed side to side as he chanted, as did many of those in attendance, including a Buddhist nun. I was struck by the fact that half the people at the service were non-Asian.

It was peaceful in the temple. I didn’t relish the prospect of facing the traffic for the drive home. The temple was only feet from Springsteen’s Route 9 and the suggestion, as in “Born to Run,” that one should flee the rapid pulse of New Jersey life. But in that temple, if only for a short while, I found an oasis of calm.

Contributing writer Michael Aaron Rockland’s two most recent books are Stones, a novel, and The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel. A forthcoming memoir will cover the years he spent in Spain as a cultural attaché.

Source:http://njmonthly.com/articles/lifestyle/people/meet-the-kalmyks.html

“Valley of the Khans”Experst Meet in D.C

“Valley of the Khans”Experst Meet in D.C


Two of the world’s greatest scholars of Mongol history joined theircollaborators NG Emerging Explorer Albert Lin and NG Archaeology Fellow Fred Hiebert in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss their findings on the Valley of the Khans project, to meet with the Mongolian Ambassador to the U.S. Khasbazaryn Bekhbat, and to engage in other conversations around their exciting work.

For the past few years, Albert has been using cutting-edge technology and innovative crowd-sourcing methods to survey the vast openness of Mongolia in search of the area where Genghis Khan was buried. His collaborators have been uncovering the history of the Mongol leader quite a bit longer.

Professors Shagdaryn Bira and Tsogt-Ichiryn Ishdorj are internationally recognized as leaders in Mongol historical research, based on the decades of intense research they have done on the subject, helping to flesh out the story of the famous conqueror, and restoring a knowledge of the rich cultural impacts of his surprisingly modern empire–one that included free trade of goods and ideas, and freedom of religion for all.

Over the years, Bira and Ishdorj’s research has been difficult at times because of the scant clues in the written record and sensitive politics surrounding the legacy of Genghis Khan.

Professor Bira is now Secretary General of the International Association for Mongol Studies, and laureate of the state prize of Mongolia for his scholarly work on the history of the country. In particular, he has won international acclaim for his multifaceted research, including papers comparing modern and Mongol-era versions of globalization and warfare in the Middle East.

Professor Ishdorj is Deputy Director of the International Association for Mongol Studies, as well as Co-Principal Investigator and Mongolian Expedition Leader on the Valley of the Khans project. Together these scholars bring an incredible amount of historic information, cultural perspective, experience, and personal passion to the project.

2012 marks 850 years since the birth of Temujin, the Mongolian man who would unite his neighbors and conquer the known world under the title of Genghis Khan. After decades of research, years of hi-tech data gathering, and months of archaeological analysis, one more chapter in the long history of this man and his legacy is nearing completion. Stay tuned to discover what secret whispers may yet rise from the silent steppes.

Source :http://exploration.nationalgeographic.com/mongolia/content/%E2%80%9Cvalley-khans%E2%80%9D-experts-meet-dc

Mongolia’s Dilemma: Who Gets The Water?

Mongolia’s Dilemma: Who Gets The Water?


by

May 22, 2012

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation’s distinctive, nomadic identity.

Second of four parts

The Central Asian nation of Mongolia has untold riches in copper, coal and gold, which could help many of its nearly 3 million people — more than one-third of whom live in poverty.

But mining is also reshaping Mongolia’s landscape and nomadic culture. Camel and goat herders worry that new mega-mines will siphon off precious water in an area that’s already suffering from the effects of climate change.

Mijiddorj Ayur, whose livestock graze near the Oyu Tolgoi mine, tends camels in a stretch of Mongolia’s South Gobi province that’s a moonscape of sand and gravel. He relies on the animals for meat, wool and milk, and they rely on hand-pumped well water to survive.

“When we come to the well, we can see the level of the well water is 8 inches lower than it used to be,” says Mijiddorj, 76, who wears a golden, double-breasted robe called a deel and a brimmed felt hat.

Mijiddorj — Mongolians typically go by one name — says the well water has dropped in the last several years because of lower rainfall, while the grasslands are shrinking because of rising temperatures from climate change.

Now, he sees another potential threat: Oyu Tolgoi, a giant mine that will need huge amounts of water to process copper ore. The company has already drilled test wells near where Mijiddorj’s camels drink.

“My greatest fear is we won’t have water,” he says. “I don’t care about the gold or the copper, I’m just afraid there won’t be water.”

My greatest fear is we won’t have water. I don’t care about the gold or the copper, I’m just afraid there won’t be water.

– Mijiddorj Ayur, whose livestock graze near Oyu Tolgoi mine

Threats To Traditional Herding

It’s a worry echoing across South Gobi province, a mix of rocky desert and grassland where drought periodically wipes out herds. It’s home to thousands of herders and about a million head of livestock.

Officials from Oyu Tolgoi, which has been under construction since mid-2010, say the mine will draw water from a deep aquifer that won’t affect wells like Mijiddorj’s. But he and other herders are suspicious.

They have already felt mining’s impact. Herders say mine trucks hit their animals and kick up dust that chokes pastureland. Indeed, almost all the roads in the area are dirt, and trucks trail plumes of dust so huge they look like they’re on fire.

A herder named Chuluunbaatar says he’s lost about 40 percent of the pastureland he uses, as well as many sheep, goats and camels, since Oyu Tolgoi built a nearby road a year and a half ago.

Herder Mijiddorj Ayur, 76, stands outside his home in South Gobi, Mongolia. He worries about the effects a local mine will have on his livelihood.

EnlargeJohn W. Poole/NPRHerder Mijiddorj Ayur, 76, stands outside his home in South Gobi, Mongolia. He worries about the effects a local mine will have on his livelihood.

“Some of them died, because they were exhausted because there was not enough pasture,” he says. He adds that he had to kill some dying animals and sell their meat in order to salvage some of their value.

A Question Of Compensation

Oyu Tolgoi — which means “Turquoise Hill” in Mongolian, a name that refers to the color copper turns when it’s exposed to oxygen — is owned by global mining giant Rio Tinto and Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines, as well as the Mongolian government.

The mine has offered herders compensation, including simple jobs helping livestock cross roads, in a country where per capita GDP is about $2,500, according to the Mongolia government.

Many herders have signed compensation agreements, but Myagmardorj Mijiddorj, a local government official, says some herders already working for the company complain of coercion.

“Oyu Tolgoi employs people for maybe $230 a month,” says Myagmardorj. “When the people are reluctant to sign the contract, they say: ‘You are an employee and you have to sign it or there will be measures.'”

The biggest risk we face is that we will be seen to be a land of plenty in a sea of stress.

– Mark Newby, Oyu Tolgoi water adviser

In other words, Myagmardorj says, they’ll be out of a job.

“We never forced them to sign the agreement,” says Suugie Gonchigjantsan, who manages community relations for Oyu Tolgoi.

She denies that the company has pressured anyone and says the complaints are just a negotiating tactic.

“Some of the individuals really want to get more, more and more,” Suugie says.

The company’s compensation scheme is modest. One option, for instance, would provide an affected family with a $3,800 scholarship to put a child through college. In its first full year of operation, Oyu Tolgoi could produce about $900 million worth of gold and copper, according to company statistics.

So, why not give herders more money and quiet them down?

Suugie rules that option out. Any solution, she says, “has to be equal.”

Map of Mongolia's Oyu Tolgoi Mine

Credit: Nelson Hsu/NPR

Growing Competition For Water

Mark Newby, Oyu Tolgoi’s principal adviser for water resources, says the company has monitored more than 100 herder wells in the area for years.

He says Oyu Tolgoi has found no connection between the herder wells, which go down as far as 30 feet, and the aquifer the mine will draw from, which begins about 150 feet below the surface.

At full capacity, the mine will pump about 180 gallons per second from the aquifer. If herders’ wells are affected — which Newby says he seriously doubts — Oyu Tolgoi says it will fix the problem.

“In the very worst case, it would require the delivery of treated water to the herder,” he says. “For a typical herd, that would require up to a truckload a day.”

Newby says a bigger challenge may be managing perceptions and helping herders already struggling for water.

“The biggest risk we face is that we will be seen to be a land of plenty in a sea of stress,” he says.

John W. Poole/NPR

Once a wetland — one of the very few in the Gobi — this area has been drying up over the past several years, thanks to rising temperatures and lower rainfall.

Competition for water continues to grow across South Gobi province, which is about the size of Wisconsin. Outside the provincial capital of Dalanzadgad, local officials are at odds with Mongolia’s central government and a nearby coal mine.

Two years ago, local officials designated a nearby seasonal lake as a protected area. Last year, the central government reversed the decision and said the coal mine could pump out water underneath the lake.

“That is the only fresh water source of this whole area,” says Munkhjargal Batdorj, a local official. Munkhjargal says the central government has a stake in the mine — which like Oyu Tolgoi also has foreign ownership — and appears to be pursuing its own interests.

“The government is probably reversing its own decision because it’s just not caring about the people,” she says. “I think it’s a rotten decision.”

Who Benefits The Most?

Mining contributes heavily to both local and central government budgets, and residents complain that officials sometimes use the money to enrich themselves.

Rashboud Tumen, a grocer in Dalanzadgad, cites one local representative in particular.

He says the official had a Russian jeep and traded it in for a Toyota Land Cruiser 80. Then, a few months later, he traded that in for a Land Cruiser 105 — which an incredulous Rashboud notes costs $53,000.

More than 30 percent of Mongolians live on $1.25 a day.

“Animals die in the drought,” he says. “You could have bought livestock for 10 families. You could have done so much good with that $53,000. What does a Land Cruiser 105 do for local people? Nothing.”

As mines begin to pump more water from the Gobi, herders will be watching their wells and waiting. And as profits continue to pour into mineral companies, some Mongolians will continue to wonder what is in it for them.

http://www.npr.org/2012/05/22/152698675/mongolias-dilemma-who-gets-the-water