Hydro-social dynamics of miningscapes: obstacles to implementing water protection legislation in Mongolia

Schoderer, Mirja / Daniel Karthe / Ines Dombrowsky / Jampel Dell'Angelo
External Publications (2021)

in: Journal of Environmental Management (292), article 112767

DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.112767
Open access

Waterscapes with mining activities are often sites of water resource degradation and contestation. To prevent this, policy-makers deploy an increasing number of measures that purportedly align the interests of different water users. In Mongolia, mining-related protests led to the prohibition of mining in and close to rivers. However, implementation of these regulations has been slow. In this paper, we investigate why that is the case, drawing on an extended elaboration of the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework to disentangle the web of formal and informal rules, incentive structures, discourses, and other elements that characterize Mongolian miningscapes. We find that i) a combination of insufficient resources for lower-level actors, large areas to cover and high mobility of extractive operations, ii) a lack of information among implementing entities, combined with time pressure on decision-making and a lack of involvement of local actors, and iii) cultural norms and political context conditions that privilege the pursuit of private interests are key obstacles. Irrespective of these challenges, the prohibition of mining in riverbeds entrenches a social imaginary in the Mongolian governance framework that prioritizes water resources protection over resource extraction, offering a counterweight to dominant discourses that cast mining as a necessary requirement for social and economic development. Our analysis illustrates the usefulness of looking at implementation processes through the lens of mining- and waterscapes to identify how social power is embedded in social-political artifacts and impacts hydro-social outcomes. Strong discrepancies between the formal description of governance processes and interactions on the ground support the need to look at how processes play out in practice in order to understand implementation obstacles.

About the authors

Dombrowsky, Ines

Economist

Dombrowsky

Schoderer, Mirja

Environmental Researcher

Schoderer

Further experts

Aleksandrova, Mariya

Climate risk governance 

Hernandez, Ariel

Economy 

Hornidge, Anna-Katharina

Development and Knowledge Sociologist 

Houdret, Annabelle

Political Scientist 

Lehmann, Ina

Political Science 

Scholz, Imme

Sociologist