Change in the Countryside – June 2017

By Julian Dierkes

For some years, I have now taken notes about visible changes in Ulaanbaatar on my periodic visits.

In part this is note-taking for my own self, because there are so many things that I don’t remember already about the time when I first started coming to Mongolian (mid-2000s), and I want to use this observations as records for myself.

Also, since I come regularly, but with long intervals in between, some of the changes may be more visible to me than to residents.

So now, I’ll start a similar listing for the countryside. Though short visits to Mongolia for me mean that I don’t get out to the countryside every time I’m in Mongolia, but over the years these visits are regular enough that some notes might be useful.

Visible Manifestations of Social Change in the Countryside

What has Arrived?

  • Guardrails in some curves on major cross-country roads
  • While it used to be that street signs (speed limits, warnings of curves, etc.) were a curious rarity (“when there hasn’t been a sign for 100km, why this one?”) they now seem to appear in clusters.
  • The state is reasserting its authority in some places. Roadside safety inspections of vehicles have returned.
  • Fences around large parcels of lands. As far as I can tell these are hayed for winter fodder as nothing seems to be planted there. Fences keep out animals in this case to let grass grow.
  • I’ve long heard discussion that many of the projects carried out with the Local Development Fund were public toilets. I have now seen some of these!
  • Not all fences around xashaa (property lots) are wood anymore. There are some prefab concrete slabs, corrugated metals, etc.

What has Disappeared, or at least, Nearly Disappeared?

  • The clever move to simply drive cross-country around toll booths on major roads.

What will Appear in the Future?

  • Much more directional street markers.
  • Cross-country biking, hiking, and riding routes away from major roads.

What will Disappear in the Future?

  • Roughly in the 2000s, I would guess, more cars were beginning to show up in the countryside, but road-construction was not revving up yet. That meant that on big cross-country routes, entire valleys were scarred by multiple parallel tracks. Along the paved sections of major roads, these scars are slowly disappearing in the landscape.
  • At construction sites, the paved roads are often simply blocked with large dirt heaps across the lanes. Effective, but scary at night.

What won’t Disappear in the Medium Term?

  • Composite electricity poles. In the countryside these consist of a concrete base to which a wooden pole is tied with wire/brackets which ends in a triangle that has space for three attached cables. Metal poles have appeared, but I know similar composite poles from the Yukon and Alaska, so they  must be well-adapted to extreme temperatures and will thus last.
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