Construction boom turns Ulaanbaatar city into concrete jungle - News.MN

Construction boom turns Ulaanbaatar city into concrete jungle

Construction boom turns Ulaanbaatar city into concrete jungle

Across Ulaanbaatar, high-rises are replacing the yurts that Mongolians have for centuries called home, symbols of a nomadic life that is fading away.

Locals say the construction boom — fuelled by a decade-long mining windfall — is squeezing out room for much-needed public services, from new hospitals to children’s playgrounds.

Mongolia’s mining boom drove double-digit growth, with vast profits from coal making up a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product in 2022.

The industry has sparked a wave of demand for office space and luxury apartments in Ulaanbaatar.

The haphazard and rapid mushrooming of the capital city — its population growing from half a million in the 1990s to roughly two million in 2022 — has also led to massive daily traffic jams, trapping people in often hours-long commutes to and from work.

The boom, however, has largely not included vital civic infrastructure, leaving many children growing up without outdoor recreational facilities, parents told AFP.

There is little room for bigger playgrounds, schools and hospitals, many of which were built under Communist rule more than 30 years ago.

Just a stone’s throw from parliament, the Shangri-La hotel — which boasts impressive views and hundreds of rooms priced well out of reach of the average Mongolian — was built on land once intended to be occupied by a children’s amusement park.

Existing civic services such as schools and kindergartens are stretched to their limit, with an average of 50 to 60 children crowding into each classroom.

Experts blame antiquated city planning strategies for the poor management of public spaces.

Some are pushing back: in the face of protests, the city’s mayor in 2021 announced a ban on construction permits for new buildings, with the exception of schools, until 2040.

That ban does not, however, cover already-approved projects, meaning construction crews are still hard at work all over the city. (source:  AFP)

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