Threats of linear infrastructure
As one can see from the map of the long-term railway plan,the country will be divided into at least 10 segments by the time all construction is complete. The existing Ulaanbaatar Railway alone has restricted the range of Khulan to the western part of Mongolia, and has extirpated the small population that had remained in eastern Mongolia.
Fortunately for Mongolia, there are a lot of crossings technologies that are available worldwide, which our country can draw from. It is very normal for developed countries to have under and overpasses for different species along highways and railroads. In Denmark, for example, there are even crossings that allow rodents to safely cross railway lines.
If all goes as planned, the ~1500 km railway project in Eastern Mongolia will begin in 2015. This leaves policymakers few months to make necessary amendments to railway regulations in a timely manner that willallow the railway company to plan appropriately spaced crossings along the railway line.
The Wildlife Conservation Society in Mongolia, which has been working in Mongolia for over twenty years, is concerned about the threats to wildlife posed by infrastructure. WCS has organized a study tour to the US to learn from the best practices there, organized workshops, and carried out research in the movement patterns of ungulates. WCS will also be shortly debuting the documentary called ‘Crossing’ to the public.
Substantial effort from scientists and organizations has already gone into the goal to mitigate the impact of railways on wildlife populations. For more information about this issue, please read the research of Tahekito Ito, Kirk Olson, Petra Kaczensky, Lhagvasuren Badamjav and many other important scientists in this field.
It is critical that policy making happens soon to allow appropriate time for planning. Otherwise, it may be too late or too costly for change.