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Monday, February 29, 2016
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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original
TRQ closed +5.44% Friday to US$2.23, +19.9% in last 1 month
HAR last traded A$0.004 on February 24
Lippo Takes Up 2.3 Million Shares as Haranga Rights Issue Underwriter
OPP closed -12% Friday to 0.55p
Origo Partners: Trading Update
February 26 -- Origo announces the following trading update ahead of the Company's final results for the year ended 31 December 2015 which are expected to be announced in June 2016.
As first announced by the Company on 29 September 2015, the continuing uncertainty in relation to the Chinese economy and depressed commodity markets have meant that realisations of the Company's assets at attractive valuations have been challenging in the short term.
Whilst the Company continues to seek to deliver the objectives of its investing policy and to achieve an orderly realisation of its assets, it remains likely that the Company will not be in a position to redeem US$12 million of zero dividend preference shares ("CZDPs") by the due date of 8 March 2016.
On 19 January 2016, the Company posted a circular to its shareholders (the "Circular") providing details of a proposed restructuring of the Company's share capital (the "Proposals") which would have, if implemented, served to settle the ongoing legal dispute with Brooks Macdonald and to have, inter alia, provided Origo with greater flexibility to implement its orderly realisation strategy. With the Proposals not receiving the necessary approval of a 75% majority at the General Meeting and the Ordinary Share Class Meeting (as defined in the Circular), the Proposals were not implemented.
As at 31 December 2015, the Company had estimated unaudited cash balances of US$1 million. The cash resources currently available to the Company are therefore insufficient to meet the Company's immediately foreseeable needs and, consequently, the directors of the Company are exploring a number of possible funding options to secure additional working capital for the Company.
MUB trading suspended. Last traded A$0.023 on May 13, 2013
Mongolian Resource Corp: Change of Company Secretary
February 26 -- Mongolian Resource Corporation Limited ("the Company") advises that on 5 February 2016 Mr John Lee tendered his resignation as Company Secretary and Mr Peter Cook was appointed as Company Secretary. Mr Cook is also a Director of the Company.
The Company would like to take this opportunity to express thanks to Mr Lee for his services to the Company during his tenure as Company Secretary and wish him well in the future.
MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 +3.11%, ALL +0.42%, ₮60.1 Million Shares, ₮9.7 Billion T-Bills
February 26 (MSE) --
Historic low ₮2,037.14/USD set February 25, 2016. Reds are rates that set a new low at the time
BoM MNT Rates: Friday, February 26 Close
MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:
BoM issues ₮226.1 billion 1-week bills at 12%, total outstanding -6.9% to ₮670.15 billion
February 26 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 226.1 billion at a weighted interest rate of 12.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
Modi's $ 1-billion credit line to Mongolia to start rolling soon
February 27 (The Hindu) India and Mongolia are likely to kick off talks in March on the $ 1 billion credit line, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced during his visit to the country in May 2015.
"We are expecting a delegation from Mongolia to arrive in India in March, to lay down the priority areas for the mega credit line as declared by Prime Minister Modi," an official familiar with India's policy for Mongolia, told The Hindu, elaborating that the delegation-level talks between Mongolia and India were expected to focus on the infrastructure, IT, and educational projects.
The plan for India-Mongolia dialogue is significant as it comes nearly nine months after Mr. Modi visited Mongolia and made the "in principle" credit line announcement.
India has an operational credit line of $20 million for Mongolia and out of that 1.5 million is being utilised for an IT consultancy project. An official of the Exim Bank working on credit lines to Mongolia, said that the bank expected most of the $1 billion credit line to be dedicated to infrastructure projects.
The Hindu has learnt that the credit line is part of a strategy to emerge as the "third pole" in Mongolia's international relations which so far have been dominated by China and Russia.
Nearly ₮35 trillion in income and assets uncovered under economic transparency law
February 26 (UB Post) Yesterday, Finance Minister B.Bolor and Head of the Customs and Taxation Department (CTD) S.Purev held a press conference to announce that a total of 34.7 trillion MNT in income and assets became transparent under enforcement of the Law on Economic Transparency, which ended on February 20.
They underlined that 8.3 trillion MNT was exempt from taxes and 2.5 trillion MNT was exempt from fines. Entities have delivered a total of 21,275 financial reports, 89,394 tax reports, 4,165 social insurance reports, and 8,140 customs reimbursement applications. Officials underlined that changes were made to the classification of 647 types of assets and to the registration of 744 entities.
The Ministry of Finance reported that a total of 27,665 entities delivered requests to report finances transparently, and 21,275 report requests were approved by the ministry. A total of 31.5 trillion MNT became transparent under the reports. Around 26.6 billion MNT was exempt from fines, and 8.7 trillion MNT out of 31.5 trillion MNT was net profit.
The CTD received a total of 89,394 reports on 34.2 trillion MNT for five types of taxes, 8.2 trillion MNT of which was tax exempt, and 2.46 trillion MNT exempt from fines. The results did not include excise tax, VAT, or customs taxes.
A total of 1,795 citizens and entities delivered 8,140 general customs reports on approximately 6,500 goods and vehicles valued at 516.1 billion MNT. The CTD waived 79 billion MNT in taxes and 23.7 billion MNT in fines.
A total of 4,165 reports from 16,636 insurers were delivered to the Social Insurance General Office (SIGO). The Law on Economic Transparency did not include a regulation on tax exemption for social insurance contributions, and 15.6 billion MNT related to pensions was generated for the social insurance contribution fund. SIGO waived 7.8 billion MNT in fines.
The National Registration Office reported that a total of 647 types of assets valued at 399.9 billion MNT were registered, and the NRO made 1,176 changes to the registrations of 744 entities and individuals, waiving 428.5 million MNT in fines.
On February 15, Montsame.mn reported that a total of 14.4 trillion MNT in income and assets had become transparent under the enforcement of the transparency law, but according to the Finance Ministry's report, around 20 trillion MNT had become transparent in five days.
Parliament first approved the implementation of the law from August 7 through December 31, 2015. The law's initiators predicted that around six to seven trillion MNT would become transparent under the law, but as the implementation of the law exceeded projections for the reporting of income and spending, parliamentarians voted to extend its implementation to February 20, 2016.
Royalty on Coal Lowered and Set to Contract Prices – Transparent Mining Monthly Briefing
February 26 (UB Post) The Ministry of Mining held its regular Transparent Mining meeting on Wednesday, presenting the sector's statistics for January 2016 and reporting on new changes made to the sector's regulations.
During the meeting, State Secretary of the Mining Ministry D.Artag reported that Mongolia exported 139,700 tons of copper concentrate, 475,200 tons of iron ore, 700 kg of gold, 1.2 million tons of coal, and 106,300 tons of oil in January. Last month, the Ministry earned 15.5 billion MNT, while the Mineral Resources Authority generated 1.8 billion MNT for the nation's budget, and the Petroleum Authority of Mongolia generated 13.7 billion MNT for the state budget.
The meeting underlined that in order to support coal exporters the Cabinet approved draft resolutions on lowering royalty payments and coal customs tariffs. The royalty payment stood at 1,500 MNT per tons, but now the tariff has been lowered to 500 MNT per ton. D.Artag said that even though the decreasing of royalty payments will impact the state's income, it will expand revenue for other taxes, including income tax from entities and other payments.
He said, "Lowering royalty and charging it according to agreement tariffs will provide the opportunity for maintaining many jobs for service providers at mines. However, if coal exporters don't deliver their coal sales agreements and other relevant reports to the taxation departments, or inaccurately report royalty, they will be charged according to old tariffs."
MNB cancels De Facto show after interview with J.Amarsanaa
February 26 (UB Post) The Mongolian National Broadcaster (MNB) cancelled D.Jargalsaikhan's interview show on Mongoliin Medee (MM), a branch of MNB, after he interviewed with former head of the Constitutional Court J.Amarsanaa.
D.Jargalsaikhan, commonly known as Jargal De Facto, hosted interviews on NTV, MNB, and Eagle TV for over two years and his contracts with NTV and Eagle TV ended this year. Recently, his interviews were being aired on MM, which launched on January 11. D.Jargalsaikhan interviewed J.Amarsanaa on February 22, and MM reportedly informed him that they could no longer air his show on their channel on the next evening. MNB did not specify the reason for the cancellation of his show.
Parliament approved the dismissal of J.Amarsanaa on January 27, as he has previously allegedly made a ruling based on a law that hadn't been approved yet, violating the Constitution and the Law on the Policies of Cabinet Session Meeting.
On January 28, J.Amarsanaa held a press conference arguing that it was illegal for Parliament to dismiss him since "the Law on the Constitutional Court states that only the nine members of the court have the rights to submit a request to dismiss another judge."
J.Amarsanaa was elected into the Constitutional Court by the Supreme Court.
"If the Supreme Court approves the decision, Parliament discuss it," said J.Amarsanaa.
Speaker of Parliament Z.Enkhbold submitted a letter regarding J.Amarsanaa's dismissal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court approved the Speaker's request, and 35 out of the 44 Parliament members who attended the irregular parliamentary session on February 19 voted for his dismissal, concluding the debate that began in the fall parliamentary session.
The Mongolian People's Party and the Democratic Party still have opposing views on whether J.Amarsanaa's dismissal was lawful.
Young MPRP members protest IAAC's political 'persecution'
February 28 (UB Post) Members of the Democracy Justice Mongolian Youth Federation of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) held a peaceful demonstration outside the headquarters of the Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) last Friday.
General Secretary of the Democracy Justice Mongolian Youth Federation P.Amar explained the reason for their demonstration, stating, "We believe that the IAAC holds the basic function of being independent and enlightened. However, today the IAAC has already lost its state of independence and has already been exposed to political interference.
"The IAAC is carrying out repeated political persecution, such as inspecting, investigating, and detaining Chairman of the MPRP N.Enkhbayar, the party's General Secretary G.Shiilegdamba, and its Secretary of Finance P.Tsogtbaatar in phases. It is not 1937, it is 2016. The IAAC's well-organized persecution, targeting one political party and one person, proves that it has already been exposed to political intervention. Therefore, we believe that it cannot carry out independent operations further."
Nat'l Council for Open Government Partnership Meets
Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multilateral collaboration with a key objective to help its member-countries to make their governments more responsible to back civil role, to accept their views, and to fight against corruption. Mongolia joined the OGP in 2014, said G.Ganbold, a deputy head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government.
At its first meeting on Thursday, the national council for OGP approved a national plan of the OGP's cooperation and performed several works to ensure a transparency in decision-making actions and state services, to strengthen justice, and to reduce corruption rate.
The government of Mongolia set goals in its 2012-2016 action programme--to take complex measures for making itself more transparent and open to people, to introduce the one-window service, to make radical reforms in anti-corruption, and to let people participate in the state actions in all forms. Within these goals, the government has opened the "11 11" center and the Electronic Machine of State Services in order to receive people proposals and complaints, said S.Bayartsogt, a head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government.
After this reports were given by Jack Mahoney, an official of the OGP's division of support, and by Shreya Basu, OGP's Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Asia Pacific, about the OGP's activities and experiences.
Mogi: she gonna run from Uvurkhangai this year?
Odontuya MP works in Uvurkhangai
Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) A member of the State Great Khural (parliament) S.Odontuya and an advisor to the Speaker G.Baigalmaa Thursday worked in Ovorkhangai aimag.
They met the local inhabitants to speak about laws, resolutions and decisions, adopted by the autumn session, and highlighted newly adopted laws on survivor's pension, on health insurance, on children's rights and protection, on protecting rights of the disabled, on babysitting service, on state policy on pensions and social insurance.
After this, the MP met with authorities of the regional diagnosis-medical treatment center to share views on a bill on medical aid and services. The center's deputy director noted that they pay a great deal of attention to the law on medical service, and said, "Not only ours but other state-run hospitals are completely dependent on the state, and this is limiting doctors in getting involved in developmental and professional workshops. High skilled doctors either work for private hospitals with nice salaries or run their own hospitals. It has been impossible to augment doctors' salaries," he complained. "Our center must serve people of five provinces but we have 80 staffers, plus, there are many problems with the social welfare matters, so we do hope the law will resolve them," he said.
Mogi: this guy knows nothing
Mongolia: time to rethink your risk assessment?
Chris Weafer is a partner at Macro-Advisory, a Moscow-based consultancy.
February 26 (FT Beyond Brics) Four years ago, Mongolia's economy was the fastest growing in the world, the stock market was booming and the future looked very bright. This year, the consensus is for growth at no more than 1 per cent and all of the rating agencies have sovereign risk at speculative grade, while warning of possible default on debt obligations in 2017. Even within a troubled emerging market asset class, the case for Mongolia looks grim.
But, while accepting that Mongolia is certainly not for the risk averse, the investment case is worth a second look. Even the rating agencies concede that although the outlook is bad, based on what we assume today, the situation could "change on a dime" this year, and that would send debt yields sharply lower and equities higher.
Mongolia's economy is critically dependant on commodity prices, copper, coal and gold in particular. It is also very tied to the Chinese economy which last year accounted for 85 per cent of all exports. That combination certainly doesn't offer any comfort for investors and justifies a high risk premium. But the reason for the exceptionally high risk assumption, which has the country's 5-year dollar bonds yielding 14 per cent and the 10-year dollar bond yielding over 12 per cent, is because of domestic politics.
What changed over the past four years, long before China worries hit commodity prices, was the main opposition party, the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) (Mogi: MPP was the ruling party before 2012 elections), campaigning with an anti-foreign investment message in the 2012 parliamentary election. It secured almost 33 per cent of the seats to be the second largest party after the Democratic Party (DP), which won 40 per cent. With such a strong mandate, the MPP has been able to disrupt and delay big mining projects (Mogi: DP itself was the disruptor) . The biggest project, the Rio Tinto controlled Oyu Tolgoi mine, was suspended in August 2013 because of political obstruction, having spent $6bn in phase 1. Development at one of the world's biggest coking coal mines, Tavan Tolgoi, hasn't even started because parliament has not given permission.
So, what's changing and what may cause a 180 degree turn in risk assessment? The answer is again politics. Obstruction from the MPP caused a collapse in FDI from almost $5bn in 2011 to only $230m last year (Mogi: LOL), and the contagion from that has badly affected all other areas of the economy. Unemployment is officially at 8 per cent, albeit unofficially the figure for under-employment is a lot higher, and the country is running out of money. The government ran a budget deficit equal to 6.5 per cent of GDP last year.
That dire economic circumstance forced the MMP out of the grand coalition last year and allowed the DP-led government to push ahead with approvals for some big projects in the mining, railway and power sectors (Mogi: LOL). The operators of the Oyu Tolgoi mine also reached a new deal and put in place $4.4bn of project finance for phase 2 operations last December. That project now only needs the go-ahead from the board of Rio Tinto to resume. The mine is not only the biggest in Mongolia, as well as the third largest in the world, but it is also viewed as a benchmark indicator for investment conditions in the country.
The board of Rio Tinto is expected to make a decision in the second quarter but prudently may delay to see the outcome of parliamentary elections to be held on June 29. After that, the formula is reasonably straightforward: if the current prime minister's DP and coalition partners win an enhanced majority then projects such as Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi will go ahead (Mogi: LOL).
Given the very long lead time and operating life of these projects, it is not expected that the current weak commodity backdrop will cause serious delays. In that case, the volume of FDI will again rise, albeit slower than was the case in 2010-2012, and have a positive contagion across the economy and to the government's finances.
Even $2bn of FDI in two years would have a very significant positive impact on the economy. Default risk would be off the agenda and bond yields would normalise. Of course, 'normalise' for a country so exposed to commodity and China risk, but that will still be a lot less than the perception today.
And if you really want to roll the dice on a high risk-reward stock, consider Hong Kong listed Mongolian Mining Corporation. The company is expected to default on a $26.6m bond coupon in late March, just as a half dozen other metal and mining sector companies have done in Asia in recent months. The company was valued at $8bn in 2012 and today has a market value of $50m.
PM Reviews Operations of Government Procurement Agency
February 26 (UB Post) Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg paid a working visit to the Government Procurement Agency of Mongolia to become acquainted with its operations.
During the visit he noted that certain advantages and upgrades have been made since procurement procedures were transferred to an online system, and added that now all agencies and ministers should deliver orders for items, work, services, and investments in 2016 to the Government Procurement Agency by March 10. Projects announcing bids, selection, and contracts should have their work complete within the first week of May. He went on to say that some agencies and ministries have not delivered a complete list of items, work, and services, so instructions will be given for authorities in charge of budgets to deliver a complete list of orders immediately.
The Prime Minister gave duties to the Chairman of the Information Technology, Post and Telecommunication Authority, Ts.Jadamba, to cooperate with the procurement agency on a campaign to distribute digital signatures to entities, as digital signatures are significant in registering and reviewing online tender offers. Ch.Saikhanbileg assigned the agency with duties to print a catalog which includes information about high quality domestically-made products.
During the meeting, acting director of the agency N.Otgonbaatar introduced the procedures and results of projects and work done in 2013 to 2015 with financing from the state budget. He said, "The Government Procurement Agency provided consulting and services to over 53,000 citizens and entities from 2013 to 2015, and organized 726 procurements for projects and events. A total of 44.2 billion MNT was saved from these procurements."
Every citizen's contribution is important in organizing ASEM Summit
February 25 (ASEM Mongolia) Ministry of Foreign Affairs held its weekly "Information Hour Wednesday" on February 23, where B. Bayasgalan, the Deputy Chief of ASEM Office of Mongolia, briefed journalists on the preparations of ASEM, and answered the press questions.
Most journalists asked about preparation status, transportation of delegates, ASEM's 20th anniversary celebrations and other issues related to the Summit. The Deputy explained that a National Council to oversee and guide the 11th ASEM Summit is headed by the Prime Minister, and comprising of six working groups. The working groups, handling matters such as venue, registration, catering and immigration, convene weekly to manage scheduled tasks related to ASEM Summit preparations.
The construction of ASEM Villa, the accommodation for heads of state and their entourage, has been completed, with only minor furnishings in progress. The villa is slated to be ready by May 1.
The Chinggis Khaan International Airport's expansion of a transit hall, taxiways and rehabilitation of runways are 90 percent complete. It was noted that 34 taxiways have been constructed and are ready.
Some 250 of over 350 motorcade vehicles were planned to be leased from the private sector, and the Parliament is considering to waive the tariff on these imported vehicles in lieu of payment. The existing government service vehicles are planned to make up the remaining 100 motorcade units.
For ASEM's efforts, the Ministry of Roads and Transport (MRT) has allocated 50 units out of 100 buses it requested as an aid from the Republic of Korea, to which the Korean side has responded positively.
ASEM Office of Mongolia, together with the Mongolian Traffic Police, has drawn up a route map for ASEM delegates and a temporary traffic restrictions along certain routes in the city are planned during the Summit. Also, countryside events, travel programs are planned in order to prevent from an overload of Ulaanbaatar city's public services, transportation, entertainment, and hotels during the Summit. The programs are designed to help both local and foreign tourists travel outside of the capital during the Summit.
The Mayor of UB is planning this activity with tour companies to be as convenient as possible for the residents. The 11th ASEM Summit in Ulaanbaatar coincides with the 20th anniversary of ASEM, which opens before Mongolia a wonderful opportunity to showcase its arts, culture, history and traditions, so a gala concert will be held on the Chinggis Square to celebrate this anniversary.
The Deputy Chief reminded the journalists that on March 1 (or ASEM Day), the ASEM Press Center will open inside the MONTSAME Agency building, which is at the west side of Chinggis Square. The purpose of this center is to provide interested citizens with the relevant information about ASEM. He underlined that the support and contribution of each and every single citizen is important in organizing and event of this scale, as it's the first time being held in Mongolia.
PwC Tax Alert: Amendments to List of Final Mining Products
The list of final mining products became more detailed
February 26 (PwC Mongolia) On December 21th 2015, the Government of Mongolia issued a resolution #502 introducing a new list of final mining products.*
• With this new resolution, the list of final mining products was updated by details of enriched coal types. In particular, the current list includes five types of washed and enriched coal according to their quality indicators as stated in the table.
• Previously, there was only product as 'washed and enriched coal' with code (2701.19.00).
• Export of final mining products is taxable with a zero VAT under Article 12.5 of the Value Added Tax law. Given this, taxpayers are provided with a more clarity on what particular transactions are subject to a zero tax.
Washed and enriched coal
Volatile Vdaf <8, Ash Ad<12, Calorific Qar>7000,
Volatile Vdaf8<14, Acid Ad<15, Calorific Qar>6500,
Caking Index Gi≥60, Volatile Vdaf<28, Ash Ad≤10.5, 10,5<12,≥12
Weakly coking coals
Caking Index Gi≥60, Volatile Vdaf>28, Ash Ad≤10.5, 10,5<12,≥12
Caking Index Gi<60, Calorific Qar net>5000,≥4500, Moisture Wt<12, Ash Ad≤20,≥20
Experts review Mongolia's political, economic situation at AmCham monthly meeting
February 28 (UB Post) The focus of the American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia's (AmCham) February Monthly Meeting held last week was Mongolia's current economy, politics, and business environment.
Economists, business delegates, and analysts discussed Mongolia's current economic issues, political environment before the election, and factors that will impact private business operators, during the meeting.
Economist and political pundit D.Jargalsaikhan, Director of Sant Maral Foundation L.Sumati, and independent analyst Ch.Erdenedalai (also known as Dale Choi), were AmCham's guest speakers. Delegates from more than 50 leading domestic and international businesses attended the event.
During his presentation, UB Post columnist D.Jargalsaikhan underlined that a lack of financial transparency in Mongolia is one of the root causes of corruption.
"Election campaign financing is one of the most pressing issues. Political parties are not open with their finances and do not make them public. These financial factors have a great influence on corruption and bribery," he said at the meeting.
L.Sumati highlighted the important role political executives have in the Mongolian economy. "Political parties in power have great responsibility in the government, one of the big examples of this is the mining sector," he claimed.
The meeting's guests agreed with L.Sumati's sentiment and said that they have a positive outlook on the Mongolian economy.
Analyst Ch.Erdenedalai said, "In the short-term, we will have to overcome obstacles. But in the long-term, Mongolia's future looks bright."
AmCham Mongolia is an independent membership-driven organization that seeks to build, strengthen, and protect business between the United States and Mongolia and to actively promote Mongolia as a destination for American investment. AmCham Mongolia is accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as its official affiliate in Mongolia, and it organizes meetings regularly with state officials, business delegates, and industry experts to share views on legal issues, development of the private sector and on providing a better business environment.
China's economic slowdown hits Mongolian metspar exports
February 26 (Industrial Minerals) Falling steel output in China followed by the Spring Festival holiday has led to lower shipment volumes for Mongolia's metallurgical fluorspar exporters, while prices are also showing the strain of weaker demand.
Mongolian exports of metallurgical grade fluorspar (metspar) to China fell by 12% year-on-year (y-o-y) in 2015, with further declines reported in February 2016, as consumption slumped during the China's Spring Festival holiday.
Slowing steel production in China, which fell by 2.3% last year, was the main reason for the drop in ...
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Khentii clamps down on illegal mining of "colored stones"
February 26 (news.mn) Mongolia is rich not only in gold and ores, but also in semiprecious stones. There is a ready market for these in China. Among these are the "colored stones" which can be found in Khentii Province in the north of the country. The Civil Representation Meeting (CRM) of the province has passed a decision to ban the illegal exploration of color stones, one of the main reasons being that the excavations destroy pasture and grazing land. In addition they spoil the beauty of the landscape of this important tourist destination. The police have revealed that illegal exploration and smuggling of the colored stones is common is several soums (districts) has been going on since 2012; these include Bor-Undur, Darkhan, Galshar, Bayanmunkh, Batnorov, and Binder. Therefore, the CRM has banned the exploration, selling, buying, transportation and possession of the stones.
Mongolian engineers create hybrid home energy system
February 28 (UB Post) Mongolian engineers at Organic Energy Group and Green City Association announced on February 26 that they have created a hybrid energy system that increases residential energy efficiency.
Organic Energy Group and Green City Association started creating the system last June to decrease the use of coal, save on residential energy expenses, and decrease air pollution.
The system can distribute power in different ways, depending on whether it gets its energy from renewable resources or from electricity.
"It takes 14,380 kilowatts of energy per year to heat a ger with five walls, and those households pay 301,000 MNT annually to the Ulaanbaatar Electricity Distribution Network. By using this equipment, the cost of power per kilowatt can reach 25 MNT, which means that households would only have to pay 63,000 MNT annually to the Ulaanbaatar Electricity Distribution Network," said Kh.Unur-Otgon, one of the project's engineers.
The engineers believe that households will stop using coal and start using the hybrid energy system if electricity prices can be dropped to six times less than what they are paying today.
The following is a short interview with the head of Organic Energy Group, O.Ganbold, about the system they created.
When did your team start building the hybrid energy system?
Two years ago, we had an idea to combat air pollution using energy, and that's when we started researching. Last June, we started building the hybrid energy system. In the first stage, our energy efficiency increased three to six times.
The second stage will be announced soon. In that stage, we will take solar power and generate power frequently. It won't require additional electricity, power, or oil. It only requires two minutes of solar charging for use, and the collected energy will be converted inside the system's voltage optimizer.
The system we currently have takes in three kilowatts of power and converts it to 20 kilowatts. It is designed to work without the need of additional energy resources.
What are the economic benefits?
Energy costs will drop by however much energy the system can optimize. In other words, people will not have to burn coal when heating becomes cheaper if they use this equipment.
We no longer have to connect power lines to areas that are far from central power sources. It will solve air pollution and soil pollution problems. The engineers have calculated that the system will generate 20, 50, and 100 kilowatts of power. So if we feed the first transformer with power, the others will be able to operate on that.
Our goal is to create a source of power that is cheaper than coal. Coal technology is getting more advanced, so we can use coal to refine fuel, rather than burning it.
Initially, Mongolian scientists and engineers have created hybrid equipment that optimizes power. Later, I hope we create many things that make the world proud.
You said you received cooperation offers from foreign countries?
We received offers from China and Japan. But it will take quite a lot of time to accept their offers and implement them. Anyhow, we will decide what to do when the patent is approved for international classification.
But either way, we will only accept an offer if it benefits Mongolia.
Annual Bridge Job Fair connects employers and employees
February 26 (UB Post) The Mongolian National Art Gallery's 3rd floor was more crowded than usual with employers hoping to attract talented individuals looking for jobs.
Stands from leading local and international companies, such as the German Mongolian Institute of Technology, UA Consulting LLC, Golomt Bank, Naran Trade LLC, Terra Express, as well as six Ulaanbaatar districts' labour bureaus, were set up at the Job Fair 2016.
Representatives and recruiters of business organizations introduced available job positions and handed out brochures, name card and application forms to visitors.
Mongolia and German Bridge NGO is organizing the Job Fair 2016 on February 25 and 26, along with the Center for International Migration Development. This year's fair had invited alumnae associations from many different countries, while the seven previous job fairs focused on alumnae from German universities only.
Each Job Fair session includes a half-day conference with professionals from state organizations, private companies in human resource management and employment services, and the Ulaanbaatar Labour Department.
Khangai, a board member of Mongolia and German Bridge NGO stressed, "We aim to help graduates meet all employers in one venue. The fair gives opportunities for both graduates and employers to find what they want."
Companies today tend to send their request for talented, energetic and committed employees to human resource management companies for better recruitment.
During the conference, Batmunkh, the Head of National Employment Service, Research and Information Center, emphasized the need for better human resource management organizations that can connect employers and job seekers.
He added that people looking for jobs should be able to send their resumes to recruitment agencies while they study abroad for reliable jobs to avoid a long-term gap in employment. To address this need, UA Consulting Company focuses on each CV they receive in detail to find prospective employers for their clients.
HR Club's founder Bayarmagnai notes that in order to be employed, candidates must be passionate about their jobs and respect the organization's culture. Employers look for creative and enthusiastic workers who can make a long-term commitment to a company, he said.
There is a preconception that employers only want workers with many years of experience, which discourages younger job seekers from applying to the positions they really want. Bayarmagnai noted that some companies value attitude towards work higher than experience.
If newly graduates want to learn and have a good attitude, most companies are ready to train them with the skills and experiences they need, he added.
During the discussion session at the fair, participants raised a common concern about choosing the right profession that fits into the current labor market demand. Statistic and practice show that career opportunities are more open to doctors, engineers and more specialized professions in Mongolia.
Recruiters said that more people tend to specialize in business administration, marketing and law in foreign countries. Though Mongolian institutions offer programs for these professions, recruiters believe that it is better for people to choose a profession that is in demand.
The organizers of the fair noted that the success of the previous fairs resulted in increased number of participants and visitors this year.
The Job Fair 2016 participants and organizers said they expect more tangible results in professional networking, employment intermediary and an expansion of databases for recruiters.
Mongolia and Germany Bridge NGO was established by a group of Mongolian graduates from German universities in 1999 with the purpose to distribute knowledge through talented and educated Mongolians who live all over the world.
Traditional Mongolian nomadic tent a growing part of urban landscape
February 27 (CCTV America) The suburbs of Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar has seen a steady increase in construction of traditional nomadic Mongolian gers, or yurts. The problem is, they were never designed for city living. CCTV's Pearly Jacob reports.
Many of the city's migrants are former nomadic herders who lost their animals over a series of harsh winters. From 1998-2002, more than 11 million livestock — including goats, yaks, horses and cows — died, leaving many nomadic families without a livelihood.
Desperate, most of them came to the capital, especially after a court ruled in 2003 that every Mongolian was entitled to 700 square meters of land.
But city planners hadn't expected such a huge influx into Ulaanbaatar, leaving many of the city's districts without services such as public sewage, water access, and paved roads. These conditions led to the increased construction of the traditionally nomadic ger — a circular single-room tent supported by wooden latticed frames and lined with felt.
Gers were originally built for the remoteness of Mongolia's vast steppe, but today, hundreds of thousands can be seen in the suburbs capital Ulaanbaatar.
In the past, the government thought the problem could be solved by moving the residents into apartments, but apartments are often still to expensive for many.
The government has not changed course and is slowly developing the city around ger districts.
Many ger residents are excited about the government's new policy, saying the plan is more practical than moving them into apartments.
Former nomad Dambadarjaa Vandandorj said that while he lives in an urban area, he still relies on traditions suc drinking salty milk tea in a traditional silver bowl and living in a ger.
"You can never separate a Mongolian person from the ger. Even the world's development reaches its peak, the Mongolian ger will always be there," Dambadarjaa Vandandorj said.
Link to article (and video)
Baasankhuu MP meets Indonesian parliamentary delegation
Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) Head of the Mongolia-Indonesia inter-parliamentary group at the State Great Khural (parliament) O.Baasankhuu Friday met with a member of the Indonesian House of Representatives Mr Hutomo Sartono.
Mentioning that another Indonesian--a member of Indonesia-Mongolia parliamentary group in House of Representatives Mr Jazilul Fawaid--has visited recently Mongolia, Baasankhuu said that the two sides have a responsibility to strengthen the bilateral relations and inter-parliamentary groups ties in times of the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations.
In response, Mr Sartono thanked his counterpart for a warm audience and said he wants to fortify the bilateral and inter-parliament cooperation.
Present at the meeting were Sh.Battsetseg, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Indonesia, and other officials.
In frames of the Indonesian delegation's visit here, a memorandum has been established between the Mongolian parliament and Indonesia's House of Representatives.
New General Consul of China in Zamyn-Uud Receives Exequatur
Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) The State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs D.Gankhuyag Thursday gave the exequatur to Mr Cai Wenrui, the General Consul of China to Zamyn-Uud soum of Dornogobi aimag.
Mentioning about a successful development of the Mongolia-China comprehensive strategic partnership relations, a regularization of high-level mutual visits and boosting of the bilateral cooperation in all spheres, Mr Gankhuyag hoped that the new General Consul of China Mr Wenrui will make all his efforts to broaden the bilateral relations and cooperation within his office term.
FM address UNDP 50th anniversary reception in Mongolia
Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) The Permanent Representative Office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Mongolia Thursday organized a reception on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.
Opening remarks were made by Mr L.Purevsuren, the Mongolia's Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Ms Beate Trankman UNDP Resident Representative.
The Foreign Minister underlined that for the last 50 years UNDP has been a contributor to global development and expressed gratitude for its long standing support in achieving Mongolia's socio-economic development goals, in particular strengthening good governance, poverty reduction and ensuring the environmental sustainability.
Mr Purevsuren also noted that the Mongolian government will make its cooperation closer with UNDP to successfully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Mongolia Fights Air-Polluting Coal Stoves
February 26 (Voice of America) According to a 2016 report by the World Health Organization, nearly 4 million people worldwide, many of them young children, die prematurely because of indoor smoke inhalation. Yet many people around the world still use coal- or wood-burning stoves for cooking and heating. One country particularly hard hit is Mongolia. VOA's George Putic reports.
Air pollution is endangering children's health in Mongolia
By Enkhzul Altangerel
In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, children like Nandin-Erdene face air so dense with pollution that they cannot view the colour of traffic lights. See what the air quality means for children's health, and learn what UNICEF and partners are doing to cut through the smog.
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, 22 February 2016 (UNICEF) – "When I go to school, it is very smoggy and I can't see anything. When I cross the road in the morning on my way to school, I can't tell if the light is red or green," says Nandin-Erdene, her cheeks red from the cold.
The 9-year-old girl lives with her parents and siblings in a ger district, an area that does not benefit from urban planning or most basic services, in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. Like 200,000 other households in the peri-urban areas, Nandin-Erdene's family burn raw coal for heating and cooking during the winter – during which time temperatures can plummet to –40 °C.
Coal combustion and a high smoking rate have brought considerable indoor and outdoor air pollution, the dense curtain through which Nandin-Erdene tries to cross the street.
The air Nandin-Erdene breathes
Schoolchildren like Nandin-Erdene breathe in heavily polluted air not only in the streets, but also at both school and home.
Ulaanbaatar is among the 10 most polluted cities in the world. Air pollution levels in the ger have reached dangerous levels: 2011 data showed that fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5, which increases the risk of respiratory infections among children, is usually 6–7 times higher than World Health Organization standards allow. The measurement can peak at up to 25 times the allowance, in December.
"My children get flu and sore throat very often during winter. I think that it's because of the air pollution," says Nandin-Erdene's mother Khongorzul.
"Because of the smog, my throat burns and it gets sore," agrees Nandin-Erdene. "I get sick often.
"I heard that smog is very bad for health. It makes lungs and other organs sick."
"I am worried more about the long-term effects," says Khongorzul. "I don't know what will happen to them in the future."
Nandin-Erdene and her mother are right to worry. The health risks to children like her are significant.
Children and air pollution
Globally, indoor air pollution contributes to the death of 4.3 million people each year, of whom 13 per cent are children under 5. Of this age group, more than 50 per cent of deaths are attributed to pneumonia caused by particulate matter.
In Mongolia, the three diseases that have resulted in the most lost life-years in Mongolia are related to air pollution. Among children under 5, acute lower respiratory infection, and in particular pneumonia, is one of the leading causes of death. Children living in highly polluted districts of Ulaanbaatar have been found to have lower lung function than children living in rural areas, with concrete risks of chronic respiratory disease later in life.
There are real reasons that air pollution affects children differently, and profoundly. According to Dr. Malchinkhuu Danzan, of the National Centre for Maternal and Child Health, "Children's exposure to air pollution is of special concern because their immune system and lungs are not fully developed. The younger the children, the greater the impact of air pollution will be on their health." The net effect? "Air pollution leads to respiratory insufficiency, which is complicated with inflammation and can damage a child's lungs, and cause a dangerous risk to child's life," concludes Dr. Malchinkhuu.
Acting on the data
"I want my children to live in an environment with clean air to breathe. It should be an essential right for every human being." –Khongorzul
UNICEF is responding to the urgent needs of children like Nandin-Erdene. UNICEF Mongolia is scaling up its engagement in environment and air pollution.
In January, UNICEF convened an international conference with world and national experts to discuss scientific evidence on air pollution and child health, and to foster a policy discussion – all in close collaboration with national partners. The conference and its recommendations have triggered accelerated actions to reduce the burden of pneumonia among children in Ulaanbaatar, while simultaneously focusing on measures to reduce air pollution exposure in older children that contribute to the burden of chronic respiratory disease.
UNICEF will also focus on reducing the incidence of pneumonia by supporting vaccine introduction and treatment, complementary interventions like better nutrition and breastfeeding, and measures to promote positive behaviour change.
"Current exposures of children to air pollution have not been experienced by previous generations, and this generation is projected to suffer from unprecedented levels of chronic respiratory disease later in life. The disease burden of pneumonia can and should be prevented, as too many children still die during the longest cold season," says UNICEF Mongolia Representative Roberto Benes. "That is why reducing air pollution is a moral imperative but also a most effective investment for Mongolia's future generations and sustainable development built on health and human capital."
It is only with collective urgent efforts and aggressive policy measures that this hope can become a reality. For its part, UNICEF Mongolia is continuing to scale up its efforts to provide children with the essence of development: a healthier environment to live in.
Council for "World Mongolians" Program Holds First Meeting
Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) The council in charge of implementation of the "World Mongolians" national program held its first meeting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday.
Chaired by L.Purevsuren, the FM and head of the council, the gathered discussed ways of creating all opportunities for Mongolians abroad to contribute to their country, giving fundamental lessons to Mongolian children abroad on Mongolian language, culture, traditions and history, introducing high tech and innovations, supporting civil unions, realizing a middle-term plan on performing works reflected in this program. This plan will be submitted to the government in near future.
The meeting brought together the State Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; the council's members; heads of the General Authority of Citizenship and Migration; department heads of some Ministries; the "World Mongolians" NGO, the "Council of Mongolians Abroad" NGO; and other organizations.
Mongolian Ambassador to Czech Republic Meets Women's NGO
Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Czech Republic Mr D.Zumberellham has met delegates of the "Mongolian Women" NGO, which has been established at the initiative of residing in this country Mongolian women.
The news was published on Wednesday on the website of the Mongolian Embassy in the Czech Republic.
Mr Zumberellham told them about a present situation in Mongolia, a soft-power policy of the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, active policy and actions for the Mongolians abroad.
The NGO's delegates said they are planning to run a training on individuals' development and financial knowledge and to organize humanitarian and health campaigns for the Mongolians in the Czech Republic.
In response, the Ambassador promised to support the NGO in organizing various events for promoting Mongolia and for learning the best experiences and lessons of the Czech Republic.
During the meeting, the Ambassador granted the delegates textbooks on Mongolian language for pupils.
Instead Of Getting An Apartment, This Student Decided To Build And Live In A Yurt
Work the yurt.
February 24 (BuzzFeed) Michael Jeffrey loves the outdoors and hates paying bills. So instead of an renting apartment or living in residence he built his own badass yurt to live in during the school year. Here he is with his hand-built yurt mansion.
"I figured I could build a yurt and live in it, and it would be a way cheaper way to go to school," Jeffrey told BuzzFeed Canada.
He decided to go for it after testing out a friend's yurt in Edmonton over the summer. Then he put all the necessary pieces in the back of his truck and drove to school at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C.
A yurt is typically an eight-sided, tent-like portable home that was used by nomadic peoples in Central Asia.
Jeffrey's yurt sits in the corner of a horse paddock. He pays the land owner $150 a month. He built a stove and doesn't use electricity, so his housing costs are super cheap. "I have friends paying $400 for a bedroom," he said.
Jeffrey lives about a 10-minute drive from school, but sometimes he canoes across the river to get to class. He's in the adventure guide program at university, and hopes to have a career in adventure therapy.
Jeffrey said he rarely uses his stove or his generator, and charges his cellphone and computer at coffee shops. He's had a lot of positive reaction to his living arrangement. "A coupe of classmates are talking about maybe [building a yurt]," he said.
My backyard is just a big mountain so I go for hikes or go to the river," he said. "Or I go hang out with neighbors."
He spends most weekends camping in the woods, and is currently trying tocrowdfund a trip to horseback ride across Mongolia.
Jeffrey said too many Canadians "are addicted to their comfort — if they don't have central heating then they've got a problem.
"It's a bit more challenging [to live outside] but people did it for hundreds or thousands of years," Jeffrey said. "Humans are well-suited to live out here."
Just a man, his truck, and a yurt. This is living.
Mongolia's livestock in danger after drought, harsh winter
By Grace Brown
ULZIIT, Mongolia, February 26 (AP) — The Mongolian herder gazed out of his felt tent at the half-eaten carcass of what was his riding horse, now lying in blood-stained snow and being devoured by hungry dogs.
"I had 700 head of cattle," Huyag Tserennyam said while staring out into the white wilderness in the remote mountainous area of Ulziit. "I've lost 150 so far."
It has been a harsh winter in Mongolia following an especially dry summer — a weather pattern unique to the country and known here as a "dzud" (pronounced "dzuhd") — decimating tens of thousands of livestock and prompting the Mongolian government this week to formally launch a dzud appeal, seeking foreign aid, for the first time in six years.
There were indications in the summer that it would be a difficult year, and Tserennyam said he prepared extra grass in anticipation of a rough winter. He has used up all of the animal feed he received as aid from his local government, and has nearly used up his grass reserve.
"I really tried, but I still lost — and I keep on losing — my herd," the 60-year-old said, feeding his one remaining horse. That horse is now his only mode of transport; it carried his wife to a recent doctor's visit. Supplies are running low, and the couple's milk tea is watery.
More than 10,000 head of livestock have perished across Tserennyam's province of Bayankhongor this winter, said Col. Munkhbaatar Togoo, head of the province's Emergency Management Division.
Temperatures have dipped as low as minus 46 C (minus 51 F), about 16 degrees C (29 degrees F) lower than normal. Snowfall in some mountainous areas reached 70 centimeters (28 inches), he said.
"Compared to recent years, this is unusually cold. It's had big effects on herding lifestyles," Togoo said.
The summer drought meant that cattle had less to graze on, failing to fatten up sufficiently before winter. In addition to those that have died, many of the survivors are so thin that their meat is not of high enough quality to sell if they perish, Togoo said.
Mongolia's government announced its dzud appeal on Tuesday. This winter is worse than the last dzud in 2009-2010, and a greater part of the country is affected. Only 45,000 livestock have died so far this year compared to the 9.7 million attributed to the 2009-2010 winter, but the vast majority of losses typically take place in the spring before the grass grows back in May.
The Asian Development Bank is contributing US $3 million in assistance toward local infrastructure and risk management plans, including helping districts prepare shelters for herders, as well as emergency training.
Further assistance is coming from Red Cross societies of Britain, Japan and Finland, said Purevjav Jambalragchaa, a coordinator with the Mongolian Red Cross Society.
Many herders are struggling to supply themselves with food because the snow is often too thick for horses or motorbikes to pass through. The Red Cross Society is preparing donations of food and cash, including $160,000 of aid coming in from abroad.
In a largely nomadic country where animals provide meat, dairy and textiles, it is difficult to lose so much livestock.
"Our lives depend on them," Tserennyam said, looking away from a pile of dead goats sheltered behind a steep rock by the mountain's edge. "Because of them, we get our flour and rice. Without them, we're nothing."
Dzud, the Mongolian Scourge – Eatglobe, February 26
Mongolia heads for World Team Table Tennis Championship
Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) Athletes of the national team of Mongolia for table tennis have headed for Malaysia to take part in the 2016 World Team Table Tennis Championship that will run from February 28 to March 6 in Kuala Lumpur.
The men's team with Ya.Begz, B.Bilegt and E.Lhagvasuren has been seeded in a group with Lithuania, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Finland and Venezuala, while the women's team with B.Batkhishig, B.Dorjinzuu and M.Delgermaa--with Argentina, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Latvia and Azerbaijan.
The Mongolian teams are coached by B.Bayarmagnai and T.Enkhtor.
Ashbourne brothers prepare to take on the 10,000 mile Mongol Rally for charity
February 26 (Ashbourne News Telegraph) A COMPUTER programmer from Ashbourne has signed up to take part in one of the world's biggest motoring endurance challenges.
CS:GO Major visa issues: It's not MLG's fault
February 24 (ESPN) Immigration law has recently come to the fore in esports, with the League of Legends ecosystem recently mired in immigration controversy in both the U.S. and Germany. This week, competitive Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is facing similar issues, as the all-Mongolian squad the MongolZ has been unable to secure the necessary visas to compete in the upcoming Qualifier for the Major in Columbus, Ohio. Team YP had the same problem, and will be without Dmitry "S0tF1k" Forostyanko and Dmitriy "Dima" Bandurka for the event.
U.S. immigration law primer
Columbus major situation
2016 Ten Thousand Camel Festival, March 6-7, Dalanzadgad: Program
February 26 (gogo.mn) Ten Thousand Camel Festival, held in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia is already one of the most famous winter festivals in the world. This thrilling festival was first initiated in 1997 by the locals of Umnugovi (South Gobi) to celebrate Mongolian camels and protect the species and pass the rich Mongolian camel breeding heritage to the next generation.
It's an entertaining 2-days of event that features various contests related to Mongolian camel culture and lots of local music and dances. Nomads from far and near wear their best deels and ride their best camels to attend the festival as it's their pride and a big celebration for them.
The date of the Ten Thousand Camel Festival 2016 is 6-7 March (the weather will be much milder!) and the event will take place in Dalanzadgad town of South Gobi. The organisers "Amazing Gobi" local tourism association promises that there will be a parade of 1000 camel riders for the Guinness World Record Book during the festival!
The confirmed program the Camel Festival 2016 is below:
March 6, 2016 The Opening Ceremony and Fairs
March 7, 2016 The "Thousand Camels" Race
How to attend the festival, how to get there:
Four wheels and the highway: Mongolia
After a traffic fine and a perfect shot of St Basil's Cathedral in Russia, RISHAD SAAM MEHTA continues his drive through vast barren lands onto dusty Mongolia
February 26 (The Hindu) To me, Minsk feels like just another European city. That, however, is soon done away with, as I start heading towards Moscow, approximately 700 km away. For the first time since we started, I come across old farmers in coats and clothes cut in the fashion of the last of the Fifties, selling freshly plucked apples and other fruits by the side of the expressway. This is something that you don't see even on the ever-increasing number of expressways that we have in India.
The typical architecture of Russian orthodox churches soon becomes very prominent, and the most outstanding one is at Katyn, just after the Belarus-Russia border approximately 400 km short of Moscow. It is here that almost 22,000 Polish prisoners of war lost their lives under the orders of the Soviet leader, Stalin. Today, it is a memorial to the slaughtered Poles.
It is a place that sobers the mood in the car. We drive into Moscow, greeted by the neon lights that showcase the flamboyant architecture of the grand palaces, churches, museums and malls that populate the old centre of the Communist world. But, today, with flashy brands splashed across humongous billboards and the latest luxury cars peppered amongst the traffic, it feels more capitalist than the west.
This is my second visit to Moscow, but it feels way more special, because I know that I will be actually driving my car all the way from here to my home in Mumbai. This excitement fuels the desire to get a picture of my car in front of Moscow's most iconic landmark — St Basil's Cathedral, the one with domes like blueberry or strawberry ice-cream ripple. But, there is a Military Band Tattoo or music festival planned that evening, and the whole area is cordoned off. Tyres squealing, I take a hard U-turn on the bridge in front of the cathedral, hop off and get my shot. A few moments later, the cops chase me down and get me. Feigning ignorance, using sign language and begging for forgiveness doesn't work, and I am left lighter by 5000 Roubles, which is almost Rs. 5000. But, it is worth the price, because that photograph remains my favourite out of the 40,000 that were shot.
Over the next two weeks, I learn that Russia stretches out behind Moscow in a seemingly never ending landmass that brings to mind the word 'vastness'. I drive 800 km a day in 10- to 12-hour stretches, but the Mongolian border still remains thousands of kilometres away.
Time zones are crossed every few days, and we even cross over into Asia from Europe. An interesting fact that a waitress at a truck diner tells me is that only one-fourth of Russia's landmass is in Europe, but three-fourths of the population lives in this part of Russia. Driving across the towns of Kazan, Ufa, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Divnogorsk and Tulun makes me wonder how such a large country can be governed and, even more, how in the world Napoleon or Hitler ever thought about occupying or subduing it. We drive past mosques, churches, museums, battlefields, oil wells, colourful Siberian wood houses and huge rivers such as the Volga and the Yenisei. And, I am continuously amazed by the social fabric that is draped across Russia — there are the Kazaks, the Tartars, the Bashkors, the Siberians and the Mongols, and I can actually notice how vistas and visages are changing as we head further east.
The last highlight in Russia is Lake Baikal — called a lake, but bigger than most seas I know. If the world ran out of fresh water, Baikal could fulfil its needs for 50 years; it contains so much water.
Finally, we approach the Mongolian Border. We are 10,000 km from Munich, and two-and-a-half hours ahead of Indian Standard Time. In Munich, we were three-and-a-half hours behind IST!
We breeze through the Russia-Mongolia border, since the guards understand English. Most of them are fascinated about what I have set out to do, and usher us through with best wishes and a lot of back thumping.
Mongolia is stark and enigmatic; the steppes still nurture the sheep herders who once controlled an empire that encompassed most of China and Russia, and stretched from here to the border of Hungary. Genghis Khan, the man behind this empire, is still celebrated by way of a beer named after him, a square named after him in Ulaanbaatar, and a huge monument outside Mongolia that has him perched atop his horse. Ironically, this dusty little country, surrounded by the Gobi desert in which double-humped Bactrian camels roam, is where I find the best roads to drive a sports car. They are baby-bottom smooth, with hardly any traffic, and feature delicious corners that creep up suddenly. The driving here is very involving, and my vehicle could easily hit 240 kph if required.
Mongolia is also where we experience the only snowfall of the trip, and some fabulous sunrises and sunsets, and perfect end-to-end rainbows. It is truly an enigmatic corner of the world.
But, soon, we will leave behind all this vastness and empty spaces, which have been a sort of companion since we left Moscow, and drive into that boiling pot of history and technology that is constantly stirred by the selfie sticks that almost all the population carries.
China looms ahead!
(Part two of a three-part series on the author's road trip from Munich to Mumbai.)
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