AT WHAT STAGE IS THE “BILLION TREE” NATIONAL MOVEMENT?

2022-03-04


Mongolia started a campaign to plant one billion trees by 2030. Mining companies will play a leading role in achieving this target.

R. Renchindulam

Mongolia has announced a national campaign to plant “Billion Trees” as part of a global green revolution to combat global warming and reduce the impact of climate change. President U.Khurelsukh announced at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in September last year to the heads of state and government of 83 countries that  “Mongolia launched a movement to plant billion trees by 2030 to address global climate change”. This statement by the President was received by Mongolians in two ways. Some people supported it by saying “It’s a timely decision because about 80% of our land is affected by desertification.” Some criticized: “it’s impossible to achieve it, there is no research, no analysis”. 

As soon as President U. Khurelsukh returned from New York, he met with representatives of mining companies and asked them to take an active part in the “Billion Tree” national movement, by planting a certain amount of trees. As a result, 21 mining companies have confirmed that they will plant a total of 608.5 million trees.
These companies include:

Erdenes Tavantolgoi JSC - 180 million
“Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi” LLC, “Oyu Tolgoi” LLC - 100 million
 “Boldtumur Yeruu Gol” LLC – 100 million
 Erdenet Mining Corporation – 100 million
 Energy Resource     40 million
 “Usukh Zoos” LLC     30 million
 SouthGobi Sands LLC 15 million
 Steppe Gold LLC 10 million
 Tavan Tolgoi JSC 6 million
 Badrakh Energy LLC 5 million
 Erdenes Mongol LLC 5 million
 Boroo Gold LLC - 3 million
 Erdenes Silver Resources LLC 3 million
 Burdel Mining LLC 2.5 million
 Altain Khuder LLC 2.5 million
Mongolrostsvetmet SOE (state-owned enterprise)  
            2 million
Monpolymet Group – 1 million
Baganuur JSC – 1 million
MoEnCo LLC – 1 million
Platinum Land LLC – 1 million
Shivee Ovoo JSC – 0.5 million
 
Tree planting is not as simple as digging a hole and planting a seedling. Seedlings need constant care until they adapt to the soil and grow. In this sense, this process requires a lot of time, money and labor. Currently, 1,000 trainers have been trained nationwide, and 1% of GDP will be spent on planting trees each year.

MINING COMPANIES ARE WAITING FOR GUIDANCE FROM THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND TOURISM (MET)

We asked representatives of major mining companies, such as Oyu Tolgoi, MAK, and Erdenet Mining Corporation, whether they had joined the “Billion Tree” national movement and started planting trees, and what challenges they face. The answer was: “ We’re still studying it. The MET will provide support and recommendations to businesses on tree planting methods and techniques. The Ministry will inform us where exactly and how many trees we should plant. We are waiting for guidance from the MET.”
 
ERDENES TAVAN TOLGOI: ACCORDING TO PRELIMINARY ESTIMATES, WE PLAN TO SPEND ONE TRILLION MNT 

However, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC gave a slightly different explanation. B. Orgil, the company’s environmental specialist, answered to the following questions.

- Mining companies are expected to play a key role in the “Billion Tree” national movement. How is this work progressing?
Within the framework of the “Billion Trees” national movement, we are preparing to develop the “Million Tons - Million Trees” program and include it in the company’s A6/20 business plan. Under this plan, 180 million trees will be planted.
We developed the general plan of the “Million Tons-Million Trees” program. This plan identifies the numbers of trees to be planted by program partners, subsidiaries, and contractors. It also identifies target areas and the total budget of the program.
Under the program, “Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi” JSC, the Ministry of Defense, the MULS and the Mongolian Farmers and Flour Producers Association signed a cooperation agreement until the end of 2023.
The development of a detailed feasibility study for the program is being carried out jointly by the MULS and the Mongolian Farmers and Flour Producers Association. The feasibility study is expected to be completed by the end of February 2022.

- According to the plan, tree planting will take place in how many locations and what is the size of planting area in each location? 
Under this program, 180 million trees would be planted in six locations, and a detailed feasibility study was conducted in each location.
Tarvagatai Nuruu National Park - 75 million trees on an area of 30,000 hectares
Ongi River - 20.6 million trees on an area of 13,000 hectares
Along the Tsogttsetsii - Zuunbayan railway route - 32 million trees
Along the Tsogttsetsii - Gashuunsukhait railway - 15 million trees
Along the Tsogttsetsii-Dalanzadgad road - 2.4 million trees
For rehabilitation of saxaul forest - 35 million trees on an area of 23,000 hectares
In 2022, the company budgeted 10.5 billion MNT for the establishment of tree nursery fields and the planting of the Zuunbayan railway forest strip.

 - Planting trees is one thing. But it is very important to take care of and groom the planted trees. How are you going to do that?
A meeting was held on 23rd December 2021 attended by the representatives of the Ministry of Defense and company subsidiaries and affiliates. The objective was to clarify who would be responsible for growing trees and how this activity would be organized. The Ministry of Defense will participate in the planting and maintenance of trees. The MULS began training soldiers on tree planting techniques.
For example, in the Tarvagatai Nuruu National Park, soldiers will plant trees and take care of them for the first few years. In the future, the Administration of the Special Protected Area plans to continue this work. Once the feasibility study is completed, everything will be clear.

- I understand that exact costs of planting trees are unknown as the feasibility study is not yet complete. However, according to preliminary estimates, how much will your company spend on this work?
According to our estimation, a total of over 1 trillion MNT will be spent. The exact number will be determined by the feasibility study. 13 billion MNT has been budgeted for 2022.

- 180 million is a huge number. What challenges do you face during the planting of trees and participating in the national movement?
First, there is the issue of availability of seedlings. It is estimated that the total number of available seedlings in Mongolia is over 9 million per year. But our company plans to plant seedlings every year, which would be likely create shortages in  the supply of seedlings and increase their price. u
Second, there is the issue of seed resources. It is possible to find seeds of conifers growing in the Khangai region, but there are almost no seeds fortrees growing in the Gobi region. Mongolia doesn’t have a unified state seed fund, and so we try to procure seeds in small quantities from individuals and organizations. However, the lack of laboratory tests on the viability of seeds makes it difficult to purchase.
Third, there is the issue of the Tender Law. Our company is state-owned and all purchases are made in accordance with the laws and regulations on the procurement of goods and services with budgets and local funds. The delay in procurement due to this law might affect the seasonal landscaping work and the chances of losing a whole year are very high.

WE NEED TO PLANT NOT JUST ONE BILLION, BUT MANY BILLIONS OF TREES 

Leading researcher of the Botanic Garden and Research Institute of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Science, Professor and Academician Ch.Dugarjav explained what needs to be taken into account when planting trees

As an expert, what can you say about the “Billion Tree” national movement? Is it possible to plant a billion trees within ten years in Mongolia?
Mongolia needs to plant more than a billion trees. I see this national movement as timely and important for  the country and in the region. I would say, as an expert, that it is possible to plant a billion trees in ten years.

- What should we pay attention to when planting a billion trees?
As an expert, I think it is necessary to focus on the following three things. First, you need to choose the right place to plant and grow trees. Second, the reserves of seeds and seedlings must be sufficient. Third, there is a need to train planting specialists.

How many companies produce tree seeds and seedlings in Mongolia? Do they have enough capacity to provide seeds and seedlings for a Billion Tree Movement? How long does it take to grow seedlings?

Seed stocks are currently in short supply because there were no large-scale tree planting activities in the past. There are seed farms in areas where forestry is developed. As far as I know, there are 6-7 units that produce forest seeds, seedlings and saplings. As an expert, I believe that these units can produce and supply the necessary seeds and seedlings. The Billion Tree National Program will be implemented in 2-3 stages over ten years. I think that this program can be implemented without any problems if we manage to prepare seeds, seedlings and saplings every year. Some trees germinate every year and some every 3-4 years. Since the program will continue for ten years, it is possible to plant more than a billion trees during this time. During the first 1-2 years, we need to train people and produce seeds. From the third year, we can start doing our main job.

- Mongolia has a very low supply of domestic seeds and seedlings and it would take a long time to produce them. If we have to import seeds and seedlings, from which country is it better to buy?
Only from Siberia, Russian Federation. 

-Why?
Our forests are a continuation of the southeastern part of the Great Siberian Taiga, so buying and growing seeds and seedlings from there would be most appropriate in terms of species and location. Seeds and seedlings can be obtained from Tuva, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude.

- What if we bring seeds and seedlings from China?
The viability of seeds from China is very poor.

Experts believe that it is necessary to plant trees in degraded areas first. I heard that around 2500-3000 trees are planted on each hectare. Using this calculation, is it possible to plant a billion trees in degraded forest areas?
Experts plan to plant a billion trees in many places. First, it will be planted in the forest area.  Trees will be planted in degraded and deforested areas affected by fires and pests. According to a report from the MET, there are about 600,000 hectares of such land. The current requirement is to plant 2500-3000 seedlings of coniferous trees per hectare. Using this estimation, it is possible to plant one billion trees in degraded areas.

Second, trees will be planted to protect farmland, in areas affected by desertification, along roads and railways. If we plant 2-5 rows of trees for over 1000 km along the road, most of the billion trees will be planted. In addition, all aimags, three cities and 330 soums will have parks and gardens. We believe that this way we can plant several billion trees in ten years. 
 


 

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