I was shocked tonight to discover how much development has been happening around the Zaysan Memorial at the edge of town. This memorial is a very important historical political monument t the Red Army and holdthat and that drove right across the land to Russia. We have been told about the political situation whereas certain development is banned from some locations for environment reasons or because it is land and parklands that are for the people. Yet, even though development is banned there are numerous multi story high rise apartments and buildings constructions underway. In fact if you drive around the edges of Ulanbaatar it is more event. It is amazing to think the city can support such rampant development. Modern development after development has changed the skyline with a filigree of gently moving cranes waltzing between floors of concrete slabs.
OK, the worst aspect was driving up to the historic monument that used to stand high above the city with a long steep stairway to the concrete statue and mosaic work. From the top of the stairway and monument you were able to look down on the large gold Buddah overlooking the city. Unbelievably, today there was the beginning of a new multistory building under construction. And to obscure the view another one stands between the car park and the view of the city. At the base of the steps bulldozers were mining the hill to excavate a site for yet another building. They are growing like a bacteria. We were taken for a drive up into the hills. Even more shocking was the development went further up the mountain with developments of walled communities set close together in shadows of each other. Some of the walled fences had razor wire protecting those in or perhaps keeping the residents in. Apparently, I am told these new apartments are mostly owned by politicians and mining company executives. In amongst the new fenced properties of apartments and large multi story houses are enclaves of ger camps. These are probably lived n by the workers on the building sites. There is also a tourist ger camp at the base of the next range.
The contrast of the apartment we are living in at the moment in this old part of town and these new gated communities is very wide. There is definitely a visible rift between the new and old here. There is a family of three living under the stairs in our apartment. A mother and two children who had apparently come from the country to UB after loosing all of their animals in the countryside. They are basically homeless, though they have found a shelter. This city is experiencing a growing number of homeless people at the same rate it’s growing a more wealthy society. Now all residents are given money by th government as part of the mining deals. It’s extremely complex politically. There is allegedly a lot of corruption and when you look at the buildings being built on ‘sacred soil’ and the state of the roads around the city in the poorer areas and then look at the brand new roads to nowhere, or at least to the flash gated communities questions should be asked. The city also likes to turn on the glitz which is designed to pacify people. Lots of pretty blue lights decorate street lights. It would surely be better to get the infrastructure improved.
Photo: Apartment blocks overlooking the American Embassy. The wire fence is around a hotel.