By Maj. L. Dot Browning
USACE Far East District Operatoins Officer
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia – Instructors from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) worked side-by-side with leaders from the Mongolian Ministry of Environment, Green Development, & Tourism (MEGDT) and the Mongolian University of Science & Technology (MUST) April 20-24 as part of a continuing effort to aide Mongolia as they develop their national water resource management strategies.
This workshop focused on educating and training water resource professionals from both government agencies and those within the private sector on a variety of topics and technologies. Specifically, the workshop lectures and activities introduced the class participants to components of the Corps of Engineers dam safety program as well as the available tools and software to aid in hydraulic and hydrologic analysis. By the end of the workshop, the participants had knowledge of the USACE software and modeling procedures so they can now analyze potential risk during the design of new dams and will aid them during the evaluation of existing water resource projects.
The workshop schedule provided lecture-style instruction, followed by practical exercises through the use of USACE modeling software. The software is designed to increase the hydrology and hydraulic modeling capacity. Essentially, the modeling software bolsters the participants’ ability to predict floods, as well as better analyze the impacts of potential dam breaks.
“The workshop was excellent, especially because it was very intellectually engaging,” said Badamdorj Purev, Policy Regulation Department chief in the Mongolian Ministry of Environment, Green Development, & Tourism.
“We can use what we learned immediately. Previously, similar modeling efforts would have taken nearly 30 people, over the course of many days to produce comparable results. With the information gained and the software USACE has provided, we will be able to greatly reduce the time and personnel required to complete the studies and analysis needed for dam safety throughout Mongolia.”
In order to truly understand the importance of these workshops, I had to learn a little bit more about Mongolia, as a country, and more importantly, its people. What I discovered during my time there, was that their history, climate, & geography have created a culture and people that are rugged yet kind, both environmentally conscience & economically sensible, all while maintaining a balance of humility and national pride.
Mongolia is known as, “The Land of the Blue Sky” because it has more than 250 sunny days per year. With the Gobi desert to the south and cold, mountainous regions to the north and west, its geography is extremely diverse. Most of the country is hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. Russia borders Mongolia to the north and China is its southern neighbor.
Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. It is more than double the size of Texas and nearly 16 times larger than South Korea, but only has a population of about three million people, of which approximately 30 percent are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The average annual precipitation is highest in the lightly populated northern regions (7.9 to 13.8 inches), and lowest in the more populated southern area (3.9 to 7.9 inches). With all these factors in mind, it is no wonder that properly managing Mongolia’s limited water resources is of top concern as the nation’s economy continues to develop. It’s a truly challenging problem. The people of Mongolia are facing this challenge head-on, and have started with increased emphasis on education.
“All of the participants in the workshop were engaged throughout the week,” said Paul Yoo, workshop coordinator and Special Assistant to Far East District Engineering Division Chief.
“They worked together to understand the material presented and asked for additional training and education on multiple topics presented this week. It was impressive to observe and to be a part of it.”
Kent Walker, a hydraulic engineer and part of the USACE team that traveled to Mongolia, was also impressed by the workshop participants.
“It’s great to see this level of interest in hydrology & hydraulics for dam safety studies; especially given the diverse educational backgrounds of those who participated in this workshop,” said Walker.
“They asked well informed questions that indicate comprehension of difficult technical concepts even with materials being translated between English and Mongolian. I would be honored to continue working with the Mongolian people as they develop their water resource management strategies.”
After spending time with the workshop participants, attending various meetings, and experiencing their warm culture, it was clear that the people of Mongolia understand the challenging prospect of managing the country’s water resources. Additionally, they recognize and appreciate the value of workshops and training opportunities provided by the USACE enterprise.
The trip to Mongolia was an experience I will never forget. I am truly looking forward to the next workshop, as collaboration with Mongolia continues.