C. Water Supply & Pastureland Irrigation


Coordinating Agency: UNDP, FAO

Government Counterpart: Ministry of Agriculture & Industry

Implementing Partner: WASH-21 Project

Location of Initiative: Dundgobi, Umnugobi, Dornogobi aimags

Time frame: May-October 2000


C.1. Background and Context


Under the collective system prior to 1990, much emphasis was placed on the construction of wells, particularly bored and mined wells, to expand accessibility to grazing areas. Between 1956 and 1990, approximately 29,000 mechanical (engineered) wells were established. However, the number of mechanical wells still operational has decreased by 50% since the economic transition began in 1990. During the same period, the number of livestock increased by 30-40%. After dismantling the collective system, the number of functioning mechanical wells rapidly declined until about 1997, owing to the lack of maintenance, management/ownership and financial arrangements. This is associated with failures of the privatization process of livestock and collective assets (i.e. failure to designate responsibility for repair and maintenance of water points, which was the perceived responsibility of the government). Recently, the Government began to provide approximately 300 million Tugriks annually for the rehabilitation of mechanical wells through the Ministry of Agriculture and Industry. Funds are mainly targeted at the Gobi and steppe regions where surface water is scarce. The budget provides 10-50 million Tugriks per aimag per year, which permits the rehabilitation of 8-25 mechanical wells per aimag annually. However, there are still over 800 engineered wells to be rehabilitated nationwide, even when counting only those wells which are absolutely essential.


A major difficulty facing both humans and animals is the lack of drinking water. The disaster has greatly aggravated this circumstances. Animals have to spend more time accessing scarce water sources, which shortens their grazing time and forces them to expend more energy walking to water. Herders must collect their own water from open ponds and streams - often the same source used by the livestock. In addition, the quality of drinking water in the Gobi and steppe regions is poor because it has a high mineral/chemical content. The increased reliance on shallow dug wells has resulted in an increased incidence of waterborne diseases (diarrhea, infectious hepatitis) among the human population.


Rehabilitation efforts must help to stabilize and restore environmentally degraded areas to ensure sustainable development. Local communities and government see improved water supplies as the highest priority. Addressing water supply needs will have an immediate and far-reaching impact on improving the communitiesí nutrition and food security as well as restoring the physical environment.


C.2 Objective


The objective is to improve access to water for livestock and human populations by rehabilitating old wells and establishing new water points in an ecologically responsible manner, which will contribute to improved pastureland management and will prevent further desertification.


C.3 Strategy for Implementation


A joint water rehabilitation effort is proposed in at least three affected aimags that fall in the arid steppe and Gobi regions. Approximately 180 wells, which are no longer functioning will be rehabilitated. In addition, 1,300 new water points for shallow wells will be identified to improve access to pasture land.


Under the rehabilitation initiative, 100 percent of the restoration costs of strategically selected water points will be provided. Before any rehabilitation takes place, however, the local administrator will present a sustainable management plan of how each water site will be maintained once it is repaired with community participation. The business plan will include a maintenance schedule, physical and human protection to the sites, and the assessment and collection of user fees. A description and commitment as to how all operating costs will be covered will be included. If the business plan is deemed feasible by the water engineer (to be hired as part of the initiative), and if community volunteers agree, the rehabilitation work will proceed.


Rehabilitation will mostly involve replacing pumps and cleaning wells. There are several private drilling companies operating in the affected aimags which have the capacity to undertake this initiative. Competitive bidding will be undertaken to select the most qualified and experienced firm(s).


Shallow wells (of 10-20 meter depth) will be built or renovated at appropriate sites near low-lying areas which hold water underground for a long period of time even after surface water disappears. A limited number of deeper wells (up to 100 meters) will also be rehabilitated in places where the water table cannot otherwise be accessed. In addition to providing water for human and animal consoumption, some wells will also encourage gardening.


New water points suitable for building traditional shallow/dug wells will be also identified through hydrological survey, taking into consideration environment concerns. However, the actual construction of shallow wells will be the responsibility of the local herder communities.


The operation condition of the wells to be rehabilitated will be assessed by on-site inspection. This will determine whether the wells have been rehabilitated and whether they continue to function. All rehabilitated wells will be surveyed. Information on the flow rate and the rate of usage can be collected from the local government and community responsible for the well. Impact will be determined by assessing the incidence of waterborne disease in the area. This data will be collected by the MOHSW.


Given the legacy of the supply-driven approach during the socialist system, when arrangements were solved from outside the area, care will be taken to avoid creating dependency and thereby undermining the community problem-solving initiative. These concerns have already been discussed with government leaders in the aimags.


C.4 Budget for Implementation



Total Cost


Rehabilitation of 100 deep wells


Rehabilitation of 80 mined wells


Identifying 1,300 new water points


Technical support and monitoring