Laure Russier Bècle
Business Developer and Project Manager, Asia-Pacific
Published on April 09, 2019

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Promoting eco-friendly tourism in Mongolia

Between 2017 and 2018, Egis was involved in supporting the design of a project to assist the Mongolian government in developing eco-friendly tourism in the country’s protected natural reserves, which will account for 30% of the Mongolian territory by 2030. The aim is to preserve natural spaces, to promote local culture and to support a fair and equitable economy.

Onon-Balj National Park

- Crédits : Laure Russier Bècle

In partnership with Horwath HTL, Egis was appointed to help design a proposed project to both protect and develop two national parks in Mongolia: Khuvsgul Lake National Park (KLNP) and Onon-Balj National Park (OBNP).

The project was designed to be compliant with the principles of sustainable tourism defined by United Nations world tourism organisation; aims to preserve biodiversity; and introduce the first eco-certification program in the country. It is hoped that the designs will be used to help promote and develop green tourism in other national parks in Mongolia.

Projects that preserve nature and make it accessible

Lake Khuvsgul is the largest freshwater lake in the country (70% of Mongolia’s freshwater reserves, measuring 130 km in length and 36 km in width). Lake’s pollution caused by dust and waste (being solid or liquid) would be reduced by surfacing roads, by protecting the lake’s banks through better management of traffic along the 40 km of its most visited shores, by creating landfills and by building wastewater treatment plants and eco-toilets. As an example, on the two parcs, three new landfills are proposed to be created to deal with the waste of 15,000 residents and 100,000 tourists. They would be the first rural landfills in the country compliant with international standards. As such, the project would help to reduce public health risks, for both the local communities and visitors.

Biodiversity is proposed to be preserved by the revision of existing parks management plans, by public awareness and by capacity building actions.

To minimize the impact on existing power demand in KLNP park,  the new building for staff and visitor centre is designed to be energy self-sufficient thanks to rooftop solar panels and energy savings through an efficient layout allowing to heat only the offices in winter.

Modelling the impact of climate change

Egis conducted an analysis of the potential impact of climate change on the bioclimatic conditions and the ecosystems on KLNP project.

For example, Egis prepared plant cover and habitat maps for the national park, determined the impact of climate change on the park and established various climate change scenarios.

To do this, Egis made substantial use of geospatial modelling, not only to quantify and map the impact on the different types of vegetation, but also to identify the new zones towards which certain ecosystems might migrate following climate change.

Preserving permafrost and fighting global warming

Permafrost is a geological term which describes ground which temperature remains below 0°C for more than two years in a row. Lake Khuvsgul is the only lake in the world that is entirely surrounded by permafrost. This frozen layer plays an important ecological role in regulating ground temperature, germination and resistance to drought and fire. Because of global warming, the permafrost is starting to melt, threatening to release large quantities of greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, methane) into the atmosphere, which themselves cause temperatures increase. In short, a vicious circle.

To fight this phenomenon, Egis proposed several solutions including elevating structures, deploying insulating materials, and laying innovative road surface structures based on geocells compatible with low traffic density roads. Geocells are geotextiles with alveolar structures (75 to 200 mm high) used as a soil reinforcement product. This solution, which is a first of a kind in Mongolia, reduces the environmental impact of the project by confining and reusing the materials of the site. This structure has the advantage of withstanding the extreme climatic conditions prevalent in Mongolia (temperatures which can vary between -50°C and +50°C).

Highlighting local culture and creating jobs

The Mongolian tourist sector currently suffers from low service standards, lack of infrastructure and a very short tourist season due to long and harsh winters. Developing tourism is however one of the Mongolian government’s strategic priorities to diversify its economy and create jobs. These eco-tourism projects would stimulate the commercial activities of local producers and service providers and contribute to reduce the level of poverty of these regions which is currently particularly high.

Onon Balj is considered to be the birthplace of Genghis Khaan, the founder of the Mongol Empire. A brand-new architectural and tourist complex is planned to be built in his memory. Taking the form of a huge bust emerging from the ground (35 m high), the future 4000 m² building is proposed to house a unique visitor trail, punctuated with gers (traditional Mongolian yurts) recounting the life of the famous Emperor and describing the way the Mongolian people used to live in the 12th century.

With the construction of this iconic building, the forecast number of visitors in OBNP is planned to be multiplied by 20 in 10 years (rising from 27,000 visitors in 2018 to 440,000 in 2029). As a result, the number of residents of these parks making their living from tourism would triple, and 8,200 residents would receive training. This would thus help to contribute to the diversification of revenue streams, reduce unemployment and dependence on social aid, and include in this approach the vulnerable members of the local community. The various measures implemented would also help to prolong the tourist season, which currently only lasts three months.

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