ASIA/MONGOLIA - Floods in the capital, 20,000 people displaced, resilience programs in place

Tuesday, 11 July 2023 natural disasters   floods  

UN - Habitat

Ulaanbaatar (Agenzia Fides) - Due to the heavy rains that continue to hit the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, since July 3, the rising waters of the Selbe and Tuul rivers have caused extensive flooding that has affected the population of the city : according to government estimates, 128,000 people belonging to 31,600 families have been affected and damaged by the floods, while more than 20,000 people have been displaced and transferred to safe places, where they are in immediate need of warm clothes and food.
Mongolian army soldiers and members of the civil defense have been deployed for rescue and relief activities, such as setting up centers for displaced people and distributing food and medicine. Humanitarian services have been activated: Unicef has provided medicines and medical equipment, as well as psychosocial support activities to affected families, while the Mongolian Red Cross has provided blankets, mattresses, kitchen utensils , disposable masks, gloves and sanitizing products. Heavy rain since the start of last week has damaged a dam on the Selbe River, displacing hundreds of people and damaging extensive infrastructure: over 100 residential buildings, hundreds of yurts and traditional vehicles have been flooded in the city, while more than 700 roads, bridges, schools, dams and power lines were damaged.
The government has declared a state of high alert in Ulaanbaatar, as more rains are expected, which experts describe as "the heaviest in the last 50 years".
Eighteen districts of Ulaanbaatar, a city of around 1.5 million people, have suffered hardship and damage, and the situation is expected to worsen. The United Nations, through the UN-Habitat Mongolia office, had already launched a project in the country which includes a wide range of initiatives and which, through prevention, has improved the resilience of local communities, particularly with regard to climate impacts on urban areas. Indeed, Mongolia faces climate change-related risks, such as extreme rainfall, strong winds and snowstorms, which have intensified in recent years. Most vulnerable to these changes are traditional settlements, known as 'ger districts', often established on lowlands and mountain slopes, susceptible to flooding and mudslides. Seven "ger districts" in Ulaanbaatar have been selected for the "Adaptation Project" as early as 2019, and UN-Habitat technicians have started work to improve communities' adaptation to floods. The project implemented a number of steps: construction of physical infrastructure against flooding and improved sanitation services; improving knowledge of the dangers and risks of flooding. The project has brought together action and training groups, of 10 to 20 families at a time, where household members are encouraged in mutual awareness, communication, solidarity and help. A total of 89 groups have been formed in Ulaanbaatar, half of them led by women, who are implementing local action plans. Five flood protection and drainage facilities were also constructed. Thus, more than 27,000 people have benefited from flood protection and 6,000 people have improved sanitation facilities, while another million people in the capital benefit indirectly. In addition to serving as a model for the whole city, these activities show the importance of protecting and improving the urban environment, since the constructed drainage channels reduce the damage caused by flooding. "Climate change, notes UN-Habitat Mongolia, is having an increasing impact on cities, informal settlements and other urban areas around the world. There is therefore a growing need to invest in urban adaptation actions and building resilience, which are beneficial in emergencies. Prevention initiatives build the capacity to respond effectively, in the most vulnerable communities and regions". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 11/7/2023)