Khovsgol Litter Project

Hovsgol National Park Litter Education & Control Project

The project consist of two major components one to provide a waste management system for the park and two to educate locals and tourist on how to enjoy the park while protecting the environment.

I) Origin of litter in the Park

Traditionally local inhabitants did not have access to (or produce) any non-biodegradable products. As a result they are used to dispose of unwanted items by burning them and/or leaving them around their camps. Park administration and managers of visitor camps confirm the following facts and findings:

a) Garbage found in The Park is composed of (in order of importance):

1.       wrappings and containers of processed food and drinks

2.       wrapping and containers of toiletries items, batteries, lighters, etc…

3.       cigarette butts

4.       clothing and accessories

5.       vehicle parts

b) Over 90% of the garbage disposed of improperly in The Park are so by Mongolian visitors and Mongolian employees of the visitors camps. (Most foreign tourist are environmentally aware and bring back their litter out of the Park or dispose of it in collection places set-up by the visitors camps.)

c) Garbage subsequently disposed of improperly is brought in The Park for or by visitors and for or by employees of visitor camps in a proportion of at least 99%. (For example, local inhabitants do not purchase filter cigarettes or packaged food and drinks. However they do receive some as gifts from visitors who mean no harm.)

II) Existing Park Garbage Management

a) Visitors camps are required to collect garbage and bring it out of The Park to an approved landfill (Khatgal’s at the Southern tip of the lake is the nearest one). Most of camps do not own trucks to do so and need to rent them from third parties.

b) Local inhabitants leave litter (received from visitors) around their traditional settlements, as they used to do with their usual, bio-degradable garbage.

c) Since September 2000 The projects owns a garbage collection truck (donated by Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset) and in 2008 we purchased another one to replace and supplement the existing truck that can be used by visitors’ camps to dispose of their garbage as required. This truck also collects garbage from local inhabitants’ settlements.

III) Ensuring a Litter-Free Hovsgol National Park

The Park has a very particular and easily controllable geography:

a) access in the Park with vehicles during the tourism season (May to September) is possible only via 2 routes:

1.       from the South to the Western shore of the lake, by jeep road from Moron.

2.       from the North via Xankh on the Northern tip of the Hovsgol lake. Xankh can be reached from the Russian border and fromMoronvia the jeep road on the Eastern lake shore.

However, the international border between Russia and Hovsgol is opened to Russians and Mongolians only: only Russian and Mongolian visitors may enter the Park via Xankh by vehicles. At the moment they represent a very small fraction of the tourism in The Park (less than 5%).

Besides, the Eastern lake shore jeep road is extremely uncomfortable and the most scenic part of The Park is on the Western lake shore. Consequently, visitors coming from the South will enter the Park from the South, rather than traveling an extra day to Xankh.

b) Other accesses in The Park are:

1.       From the West via horse trails over mountain passes, used by local inhabitants only.

2.       By helicopter from Ulaanbaatar, used only by foreign tourists. Visitors coming in by helicopter represent a small proportion of the foreign tourists entering the Park. (Mongolians do not afford helicopter

3.       By boat from Khatgal on the Southern tip of the Lake.

c) All visitors’ camps are currently located around Khatgal and the Western lake shore. They are supplied exclusively via the Southern access of the lake.

d) Taking into consideration the geographic and access situation and the origin of litter in The Park one can conclude that:

1.       At least 95% of the litter currently being disposed of improperly in The Park comes in through the Southern entrance of The Park, either via visitors camps supplied via the Southern entrance or by visitors coming in and out of The Park through the Southern entrance.

2.       Informing visitors and controlling that litter entering at the Southern entrance of the Park (Khatgal and Western jeep road) goes out the same way would ensure that practically all littering in The Park will be stopped.

IV) Controlling Litter

The extent of the Park surface, wild animals and the limited amount of resources available to The Park administration make it virtually impossible to set-up a network of garbage collection points that will ensure a litter-free environment.

In such circumstances the only possibility to achieve this aim is to give responsibility to bring litter out of The Park to the persons and institutions that bring it in.

Besides, from experiences made with tourists visiting Mongolia from abroad, we conclude that most foreign visitors are environmentally aware and come to Mongolia for the very purpose of enjoying a pristine environment.

Mongolians, due to their recent exposure to non-biodegradable litter, are not conscious of the damage of littering. However they have a natural and traditional respect for nature. We noticed that Local Park inhabitants are easily taught (by example) not to litter, even with cigarette butts. Mongolian Park visitors will certainly understand the need for a control on litter entering the Park, provided it is communicated in a friendly and explanatory manner.

The following measures in the form of a “garbage customs” can realistically be applied by The Park administration to control litter:

1.       Requiring all visitors’ camps and their employees to declare in detail the amount of litter they bring in The Park, check their declarations and require them to bring out at least the same amount of litter, to be checked. Camps failing this rule will be warned and their licenses suspended, should they repeatedly fail to return the litter they bring in.

Requiring all private visitors (while paying Park fees at Southern entrance) to leave as many litter generating items as possible at the Park entrance and declare the amount and type of litter that they need to bring in.

2.       Give visitors a special garbage bag to bring back their litter out of The Park with. Require them to pay a deposit according to the amount of litter they bring in and return this deposit to them at exit of the Park.

3.       In a second phase, helicopter with flight plan to The Park could be checked in Ulaanbaatar or at arrival in visitor’s camps by Park rangers. (This would also allow the collection of the Park fee and the general information of visitors directly flying in.)

V) Informing Visitors

Foreign visitors will be informed at entrance of the Park. Garbage bags will be printed with the necessary messages to ensure their information and cooperation, so as to avoid creating additional leaflets.

1.       Travel guidebooks on Mongolia will be requested to add this information in their new publications.

Information will be available online on Mongolian information websites.

(At a later stage and if the system is used in other national parks, Mongolian immigration could consider to distribute information to all foreign visitors entering the country.)

2.       Mongolian visitors will be informed at Park entrance as foreigners. Since they have been identified as the group generating most litter, they are the most important target group of the information campaign and will be given special attention. It is also important that they do not feel that new regulations, by requiring cash deposits, de facto discriminates them against foreign visitors with more money than they have.

Widespread information will also allow them to take along the right supplies and money for the cash deposit when they plan their visit to the Park.

Consequently, Mongolian visitors should be made aware of The Park new litter control policy by newspaper and TV advertising, focused on the areas where most Mongolian tourists come from.

VI) Action Plan & Budget

a) Set-up by Park with support of MS2S

1.       Discussions with The Park administration and the Ministry of Nature to provide a detailed concept of the “garbage customs” and an implementation plan, including hiring, training and management of special rangers.

2.       Support to The Park to write corresponding regulations on litter control in The Park and to train Park rangers.

3.       Communication and media concept. Establishment of communication materials (texts, advertising, films). Negotiating with media and potential sponsors. Sourcing of suitable printable garbage bags.

b) Operations

Running of one garbage removal truck

Four additional Park rangers’ salaries, printing of 20-30’000 garbage bags, miscellaneous small equipment (uniforms for rangers, table, stationary, etc)

Update of concept, regulations and communication materials

Total yearly cost 18-20,000US$