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Earth Today | Urban adaptation: Mongolia’s flood defence example

Published:Thursday | May 19, 2022 | 12:07 AM
Drainage canals are reducing flood risks through the project.
Drainage canals are reducing flood risks through the project.

AS CITIES expand and climate change impacts worsen, urban adaptation is crucial.

By 2050, around 68 per cent of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas, while more than 1.6 billion people in 970 cities will face regular heatwaves and summer temperatures surpassing 35 degrees Celsius.

While adaptation efforts have historically focused on rural areas, a project in Mongolia, which incorporates a wide range of initiatives and aims to build the resilience of high-risk communities, is directly confronting the burden of urban climate impacts.

The country has seen warming of over two degrees Celsius since recordings started in 1940 and now experiences climate-related hazards, such as extreme rainfall, strong winds, and snowstorms, which are only intensifying.

Most vulnerable to these changes are traditional settlements, known as ger districts, which are often established on low land and mountain slopes, susceptible to run-off and consequently flooding.

“These floods affect homes and other assets, and lead to overflow of latrines, heavily polluting water and soil, which in turn lead to increased incidents of disease often affecting children,” said Enkhtsetseg Shagdarsuren, project manager of UN-Habitat Mongolia.

“Extreme flood incidents are increasingly recorded in these areas, not only destroying homes and assets, but also causing death,” she added.

Seven ger districts in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, were chosen for the adaptation project, and work by UN-Habitat to improve the adaptive infrastructure of the communities to flooding began in 2019.

Made possible by a US$4.5-million grant by the Adaptation Fund, the project has a multifaceted and participatory approach to maximise adaptive capacities across district and community levels.

“By focusing on flooding, the project aims to increase the resilience of the ger areas through the construction of physical flood infrastructure and improved sanitation services; improvement of the knowledge on flood hazard and risk exposure and vulnerability for the ger areas; and improvement of the resilience and adaptive capacity of target communities,” Shagdarsuren said.

As well as tangible developments, like improved flood services, the project brings together action and training groups, 10 to 20 households at a time, where community members learn and share in an environment that encourages awareness raising, communication, and a friendly community spirit.

Now, 89 groups, half of which are led by women, have been formed, and are creating and implementing local action plans. Five flood protection and drainage facilities have also been constructed.

More than 27,000 people have so far benefited from increased flood protection and 6,000 have better sanitation infrastructure, while a further one million people across the capital are benefiting indirectly.

Source: Adaptation Fund