Caught between Russia to the north and China to the south, Mongolia has no direct access to the rest of the world other than by crossing or overflying its two neighbours. Its huge territory contains very little arable land: it is mountainous and covered by steppes that become increasingly arid as they stretch south to the Gobi, the most northerly desert on earth.
Nearly 30% of its 2.97 million people are nomadic or semi-nomadic. Nearly a third of the population lives in the capital, Ulan Bator.
Mongolia has the world’s lowest population density: 1.7 inhabitants per square kilometre.
The main religion is Tibetan Buddhism, and 80% of its people are of Mongol extraction.
The traditional way of life involves the raising of huge herds of sheep, horses, cashmere goats, yaks and Bactrian camels, but it has become increasingly precarious with the concentration of herding in the hands of large owners, and an exodus to the big cities. In the capital, migrants from the steppes find life very difficult, gravitating to the “ger districts” or shantytowns surrounding the city, which have no running water, electricity or sanitation.
Nevertheless, Mongolia is rich in material resources such as copper and coal, which have contributed to its economic growth over the last two decades. Most economic activity is now concentrated in Ulan Bator, one of the most polluted capitals in the world.
The city’s main sources of energy are three coal-fired thermal power stations which, combined with the domestic use of coal stoves in the vast majority of the yurts (ger in Mongolian) for heating in winter and cooking year-round, push pollution indexes to very high levels.
Public health is seriously affected, and a correlation has even been observed with the women’s fertility rate.
Mongolian is the official language.
The unit of currency is the tughrik (MNT).
The basis of the Mongolian diet consists of mutton and dairy products. Few fruits or vegetables are produced locally; those that are available come mainly from China, and are unaffordable for many families.
Le The climate is very similar to that of Quebec, since Mongolia lies at the same latitude as the inhabited portion of our province. However, the air is drier in Mongolia.