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WWF-Mongolia jointly with its partner organizations, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Mongolian Road Association, organized an extensive stakeholders’ meeting to increase their awareness on the implementation of the national standards for wildlife-friendly linear infrastructure (LI) crossings as well as to introduce an illustrative example of overpass and underpass blueprints. The meeting was held under the framework of USAID-funded project “The Asia’s Linear Infrastructure safeGuarding Nature (ALIGN) Project”, implemented by WWF-Mongolia in partnership with the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, aiming to enhance the development and implementation of effective linear infrastructure safeguards that protect people and nature from harm.
This time’s meeting has mainly targeted the representatives, esp. the engineers and planners of private entities, certified as professional companies to conduct technical feasibility assessment. Thus the meeting has involved over 60 participants representing the different LI stakeholders, including the officials from the government organizations, road and railroad infrastructure entities and feasibility study companies.
The officials have presented the policies regulating the planning and development of wildlife friendly LI and provided an overview about the implementation of the national standards (for Wildlife crossings for highways and railroads in the steppe and Gobi Desert areas MNS 6515:2015 and for Wildlife crossings for highways and railroads in mountainous and forested areas MNS 6735:2018), the two documents that were first developed and approved by the Mongolian Agency for Standard Metrology with the financial and technical support from WWF-Mongolia.
According to an the official from the Mongolian Road Association, one of the bottlenecking issues for the private entities is a lack of proper information and knowledge about the tools that will direct the constructors in wildlife risk mitigation. He added that the informative meetings and gatherings of this kind will be useful to gain a common, timely and rightful understanding about any on-going process around wildlife-friendly linear infrastructure.
In addition to the general information from the officials, a private entity engineer shared an outline of the blueprint of the overpass and underpass structures devised in two geographically different locations. Moreover, the relevant government officials presented the results of the recent study made on the negative impact and mitigation measures of unplanned linear infrastructure on wildlife.
WWF-Mongolia’s Conservation Director B. Chimeddorj in his presentation during the meeting mentioned about the government plan to construct 3000 km of road and railway infrastructure. He added that if such developments have poor mitigation measures this may have harmful and most of all irreversible effect on natural wildlife environment causing the risk to wildlife habitat fragmentation into 4-7 sections, esp. for globally endangered large ungulates such as goitered gazelle, Asiatic wild ass, and into 59 sections in case of snow leopard habitat. He highlighted that the LI standards and the blueprint designs made for two different regions are the base documents that any LI developer can refer to, especially at the very early planning stage and as well as throughout the actual construction period.
It is worth noting that the meeting was almost a first ever opportunity for all involved stakeholders to discuss the challenges, share best practices and most importantly to clarify the misunderstandings and details concerning the implementation of the standards and wildlife passage blueprint designs. For instance, one of the issues that everyone has agreed upon was to consider wildlife crossings at the early stage of construction planning. Whereas another important feedback from the participants was a need for a shared database on wildlife movements and habitat, which is suggested to be created and maintained by Linear infrastructure development Coordination platform in order to ensure a smoother and swifter sharing of all the data crucial for the planning among stakeholders.
Further, WWF-Mongolia in collaboration with Mongolian Road Association will continue acting as one of direct facilitators thus aiming to improve capacity of engineers, planners and government officials to ensure safeguards compliance in the LI planning process. We believe that the implementation of existing standards and regulations for better planned environmental and social safeguards in LI projects will have a definite impact on long-term economic growth and wellbeing of both, humans and wildlife.