Analysis: Mongolia Plans Ruinous Water Infrastructure Glut
The Mongolian government has set its sights on a major expansion of heavy industry in the Gobi desert. Supported by development banks, corporations and Chinese demand, over the coming years southern Mongolia will become home to at least 20 mega projects, including eight coal mines, four coal processing plants, two coal power plants and a copper smelter.
All this heavy industry demands a lot of water. A report analysing the gap in supply and demand, sponsored by the World Bank, was published in January. It predicts that by 2040 demand for water in the south Gobi region may increase by two-and-a-half times, which will exceed supply by more than 20 million cubic metres annually (about 8,000 Olympic swimming pools).
The report never questions whether this is a good strategy for sustainable development. While it does describe how to close the gap by improving the efficiency of water use, it also identifies “a surface water transfer” as a way to achieve this: piping water from rivers in the north to the south of the country.
Photo courtesy of Manuel Darío Fuentes Hernández.