Urbanization expands the city

Translated by B.DULGUUN
It is common for migrants from rural areas to settle in the districts of Bayanzurkh and Songinokhairkhan.  As the population increases, issues of overloading resources for family physicians and a scarcity of kindergartens and schools arise.  Hence, the administration of Songinokhairkhan District has requested that the Governor’s Office of Ulaanbaatar bifurcate the district.
There was a massive line for the “One-Stop” administrative service center, in Soginokhairkhan District. The service allows residents to register newborn babies for their state registration and addresses, as well as register survey maps for property lines, among other services.
An elderly man was furious as I moved ahead to see the total number of citizens queuing. He yelled not to cut into the line, for he had been waiting the entire day. It was clear that everyone was exhausted by the long wait.
After passing through the crowd, I met S.Munkhchuluun in the Governor’s Office on the third floor.
-It appears that your district’s services are overloaded. Everyone here to accomplish their business seems frustrated.
-I know, right? Since there is so much work to do, even the workers are melancholy. The city’s Bayanzurkh and Songinokhairkhan districts are able to expand in all directions; therefore, people settle without permission. Especially in our districts’ Emeelt and Takhiltad neighborhoods, many have settled down without authorization. The population for those registered has increased to some 265 thousand, and for those unregistered, it has increased to some 280 thousand.
-Where is the accountability for unauthorised residents?
-Even when forced to move by officials, the citizens rebel, enumerating all sorts of problems, such as to having no place to go or to put up a fence. Sometimes they even do demonstrations. We have moved families settled near floodplains after warning them about the risks of disaster, but in the end, they return.  There is a law stating the rights of citizens to choose where they live; hence, we can do nothing about it. Since they have already moved in, we have the responsibility to assist them with public services.
In our district, there are abundant streets such as Uvs and Uyeriin, which are unofficial and unaddressed.
-How many committees are there in your district, and approximately how many families live in each committee?
-There are 32 committees. The eighth committee has the smallest population at around five thousand. The largest has around 16 thousand people. In contrast to Chingeltei District, our committee with the smallest population is the same size as their most populated committee. According to administrative units, a soum and a district have corresponding status. The number of officials is also around the same number. However, the difference between the work they do is like day and night. While the local government’s community provides public services to some 3,000 people, at most, we provide public services to 280 thousand people. We are not contending with anyone, but with this much strain it’s only harming the citizens.
Family physicians provide service to 200 to 300 people a day. With the increase in population they have to tend to 800 to 1,000 people. Isn’t this asking too much? In one day at one service spot, services have been designed to accommodate 1,500 people; however, now it has risen up to 5,000 to 8,000. Citizens get infuriated by the long wait, leading them to swear and tongue-lash the workers without a hint of understanding.  This is negatively affecting the worker’s health. Our social worker had to resign due to health issues caused by the constant strain.  It is difficult for both sides. Under these circumstances, we are going to request that the Governor’s Office of Ulaanbaatar divide our district into two. The citizens are also supporting us.
-Coincidently, I met the trash bag dispatching team’s leader. She had wood in her hands and seemed exhausted.
-The leaders do the most difficult and burdensome work. Their work is endless, since they have to prepare and implement surveys, investigate the location of new settlers and provide public services. Our district has numerous communities that are in poor condition.  We work in dusty places with extremely poor footing. Retired women do most of this work and it is a tough job. You probably witnessed the leader holding a stick in her hand for protection from dog attacks.  The income of team leaders are given through bonuses, so their social insurance is not paid. When we attempt to recruit more workers, different excuses pop up, starting from the inadequacy of bonus funds.
Songinokhairkhan District covers 120.6 thousand hectares
If the district is bifurcated, it will improve the quality of public service.  The government supports the idea of transmuting soum status to that of cities and of the city council reorganizing districts into satellite towns. The working group directed by Deputy Governor R. Dagva is researching sources for the necessary funds to change IDs and addresses for the bifurcation of the district.
I met the Chairman of the VII Committee of Songinokhirkhan District, G.Oyunchimeg, whose committee had the largest population. She stated, “In total, our committee has some 16,000 people from over 4,000 families. All the districts apart from Khilchin are ger districts. While our neighbor, VIII District, has eight thousand people, our district has twice the population. We have made a request to divide not only the district, but also the committee, to the Governor’s Office of Ulaanbaatar on account of the overburdening.
“There are no kindergartens or schools in our district. Thus, the children are studying at the  67th School, causing the school to have four shifts. Some study at the 105th School, which is two or three stops away. Although we have seven wells, they are not sufficient. Some families have to travel one to three kilometers to get water.
“It disheartens me to see kindergarteners going to school at dawn as well as seeing children pull carts to distant places in the blistering cold for water.”
The head of the VII Committee of Songinokhairkhan District, S. Zendmene said, “I have worked for the committee all my life. I’m in charge of 420 families. Our working environment is completely different from that of the section heads in central districts. It’s strenuous to go through muddy wetlands and to cross over rivers during the warm seasons. Instances like tripping and slipping are common for us; the residents dump their trash and wastewater past their fences.
“The outskirts of the city are burdened with unemployment and alcoholism. Therefore, our workers have to be on red alert throughout the day.  Thoughts on how to improve people’s common sense is always on our minds. Whenever we organize the trash by putting it in trash bags, it is later spread out on the streets with no sign of the trash bag. It’ll help everyone if the district is bifurcated.”
From left: Governor of Songinokhairkhan District’s VII Khoroo G.Oyunchimeg, Division’s head S.Zendmene
Resident of the VIII committee of Songinokhairkhan District, G.Khashtuul stated, “Both the community center and committee centers are equally packed with people. At first, the workers used to scold us for bureaucratizing. Nevertheless, after realizing the workload, they stopped getting infuriated with us. Even with all the effort, the work is never finished. Us residents are supporting the idea for bifurcation.”
Later, I went to inquire about the number of families the Chairman of Ulaanbaatar’s central district was in charge of.
The Chairman of the  IV section of the VIII committee of Bayangol District, S.Tsetsendeleg, is in charge of 478 families. He stated that his workload is far less than that of Section Head S.Zendmene’s, because in addition to having a good working environment, the residents live in apartments, and are understanding and supportive of their work.
The IX committee of Chingeltei District has nine sections. Each section head is in charge of approximately 250 to 400 families. Compared to the above governors, workers and heads of sections, there were many differences. None of them was frustrated with their workload. However, they did complain about how residents would hound them about their discontent with long waits.
“The State Great Khural debates administrative structure and geological location. Albeit Songinokhairkhan District has yet to officially request bifurcation, the district administration is discussing the matter. They understand the urgency and are currently researching,” stated the Chairman of the Governor’s Office of Ulaanbaatar, YO.Gerelchuluun.
The story was originally published by Unuudur Daily Newspaper
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