Modernizing the City: Social Exclusion Caused by Urbanization and Issue of Identity (1990-2000)

Since the 1960s, the growing Ulaanbaatar has attracted population from rural areas to migrate to the capital for better job opportunities and living conditions. Population rose tremendously over the years and was especially obvious during the post 1990s when Mongolian transited from a socialist regime to a democratic one. People stayed and resided in the city, either living in apartments in the city center or living in gers as they used to do. By the Constitution of Mongolia of 1992, it was declared that Mongolians could move freely, settle and alter the residential destination within the area (Bayartsetseg, 2015). Hence, more and more people migrated to the capital while the government could not provide the influx of population with adequate housings; thus, the ger district expanded.

Contrasting developments of ger district and city center (Source from Terbish Bayartsetseg)
Contrasting developments of ger district and city center (Source from Terbish Bayartsetseg)

During the post-1990s period, the Mongolian government not only needed to tackle the transition of contrasting political regimes, the sudden break of development plans, to console the anguish population but also to search for the future direction of Mongolia. While urbanization was a non-stop process happening in Ulaanbaatar, the urban fringe was often neglected. The city center was highly urbanized while the rural urban area was still the same as it was where gers settled in and had occupied more spaces than the urban area itself. These places were often isolated from the city due to inadequate infrastructure, difficulty in accessing water, heat and social services and disorganization of the district which led to people being reserved to visit the place. The major problem of Ulaanbaatar’s city planning was that not citizens were participants of urbanization.

The question was: what was the potential of the ger district in regards to rapid urbanization in Ulaanbaatar? How to soothe social exclusion happening in Ulaanbaatar city in ways of urban planning? Reading from Miller’s essay,

the potential to transform the Ger districts into not only inhabitable space, but into a desirable place, for the majority of its residents does not necessarily lay in the demolition and replacement of tracts. Investment by the municipality in infrastructural improvements and services is an oft-cited need for these areas. (Miller, 2013)

An important idea was raised from his essay, that, apart from trying to demolish ger districts, it had potential to become a product of urbanization. Unlike other countries, the ger districts are not slums. In many other countries, informal settlements are part of an invasion of public and private space. However, in Mongolia, all residences have the possibility to receive free land from the government (Caldieron, 2013). With the desirable condition provided by the government since the transition, possibilities of ger districts emerging as a self-contained community surfaced.

The post-1990s period was a period for Mongolia to search for their national identity. The Soviet model laid the foundation for urbanization but the issue of being Mongolian was yet to be found. Mongolian government, instead of blindly following the pace of developed countries, could possibly counter the issue of urban sprawl by advantageously utilizing it to become her identity.

1. Miller, Joel Eric. Nomadic and Domestic: Dwelling on the Edge of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. UCLA Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2013.
2. Caldieron, Jean M. “Ger Districts in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Housing and Living Condition Surveys .” International Journal of Innovation and Applied Studies 4, no. 2 (October 2, 2013): 465-76. Accessed December 16, 2016.
3. Bayartsetseg, Terbish. “Social Exclusion in the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar.” Emerging Subjects. June 24, 2015. Accessed December 18, 2016.

1 Comment on “Modernizing the City: Social Exclusion Caused by Urbanization and Issue of Identity (1990-2000)

  1. Quite curious about what the government actually do about the urban planning , is it the government not willing to consult public opinion or citizen neglected the government and choose to expand the khasha itself ?

    However , the trend of khasha in the future are meant to be permanent housing , do u think the plug in infrastructure project by “Joshua ” helps on the transition?

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