Community Action Planning in… Mongolia!

By Michael Haggerty

John and Michael recently travelled to the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaator, to facilitate a community action planning workshop with residents of the city’s ger districts.

In the last decade, tens of thousands of people have migrated to Ulaanbaator and settled on hillsides on the city’s periphery. The migrants live in the traditional nomad tent – known as a ger – a centuries-old housing type in Mongolia. Over 60% of the city’s 1 million residents now live in these ger districts.

Many of the urban poor who need to be close to urban services have settled in the gullies in the hillsides. There they are exposed to annual floods during the summer rains. Residents often experience loss of property and life. But the ger districts also lack basic services and infrastructure, so UN-HABITAT has been working with residents for the past seven years to form what are called Community Development Councils. These CDCs work together to improve the neighborhoods.

Our workshop brought together seven CDCs – which represent about 2,500 households – to generate solutions for disaster risk reduction.

When we visited the Unur area, we saw that many small human alterations to the landscape were making floods worse. For example, some people excavate out of the hillside to make a flat plot of land for their ger and then move the left-over soil into the gully. People are always moving into and out of Unur and the landscape is fast-changing – so are the locations and impacts of the floods.

As a result, there is no single, large-scale solution. Instead, the CDCs discussed how small-scale solutions could be implemented using resources in the community in order to incrementally reduce flood impacts. One possible solution, for example, is to dig trenches on individual plots to prevent storm water from running off into the gullies. This would mimic the role of water retention that top soil and vegetation played before it was lost as the area developed.

Our team put together a “toolkit” of solutions with a water specialist from Arcadis, an Amsterdam-based engineering firm that provides pro bono services to UN-HABITAT through a program called ARCShelter. The book we created to document the community action plan can be downloaded here: Unur Area CAP – Hi Res, Unur Area CAP – Lo Res. Sorry, but the book is only available in English.

So what does all this have to do with Indonesia and Solo?

Like Unur, many neighborhoods in Solo are exposed to floods from the city’s rivers. The community action planning process is a tool for participation that is used around the world. In particular, it was used following the 2004 tsunami in Aceh and 2006 earthquake in Jojga. We hope this project illustrates ways residents and local government in Solo can think about addressing the problem of floods in their neighborhoods.

One Response to Community Action Planning in… Mongolia!

  1. Michael Haggerty says:

    The Guardian published an interesting article about UB’s ger districts on Sunday:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/15/shantytown-home-quarter-of-mongolians

    One big problem: no economic activity in the ger districts.

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