The sustainable development of ger areas in Ulaanbaatar (UB), the capital city of Mongolia, is one of the critical development issues facing the country. The transition to a market economy and a series of severe winters (called zud) have resulted in the large-scale migration of low-income families into the ger areas of UB. The city represents 39 percent of the nations population and generates more than 60 percent of Mongolias gross domestic product (GDP).
Basic services are very limited or even non-existent in ger areas. Nearly 85 percent of ger residents use wood or coal-burning stoves for heating, in contrast to apartment buildings, which are connected to the central heating system. Ger residents must purchase water at public water kiosks, while apartment residents enjoy reliable supplies of piped-in drinking and hot water. The low density of ger areas, coupled with the extremely cold climate makes the provision of these basic public services very costly. Poor urban services have also led to environment degradation, including the pollution of air and soil, which poses such health risks as respiratory diseases and hepatitis.
Clearer policy directions, such as the Compact City concept of the UB Master Plan 2030, have emerged in recent years to control spatial expansion and promote high-density development for the ger areas. However, the governments practices have been inconsistent. These practices are, in part, a result of limited awareness and understanding by the general public, as well as by policy makers, of the public costs of their actions on land management. Also, many supporting mechanisms, including land valuation and taxation, have not yet been properly developed.
The intent of this report is to clarify the costs and benefits of different development paths. These paths include (i) conversion of ger areas into apartment building complexes; (ii) gradual improvement of urban services for existing ger areas; and (iii) further expansion of ger areas at the fringe of the city.