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Mongolians clean up sacred hillside

September 22 2006:

This week ARC organised a clean-up day of Khiimoriin ovoo, a sacred site and picnic spot on the hillside above the city of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia

The event on September 17 was launched by the Mongolian MP and director of the Avarga Wrestling College, Mr. B. Bat-Erdene. To the accompaniment of a traditional Mongolian musician he encouraged 70 students and Buddhist monks to work in teams to pick up the bags of litter that had been left by daytrippers throughout the summer.

Khiimorriin ovoo means the sacred cairn of the prayer flags. Ovoos are heaps of stones, usually found at the top of mountain passes and other high places, many of which are sacred. Many Mongolians believe they should never pass a sacred ovoo without stopping and making an offering - as well as adding a stone to the heap. Unfortunately recently they have also been adding their bottles and rubbish to the heap, which is creating a mess of non-biodegradable debris.

Rubbish collected included broken rice bowls, bottles and hundreds and hundreds of plastic bags.

Three environmental information boards were also erected close to this site informing the public about the importance of looking after sacred – and indeed secular places – and also asking them to to clean up their litter after a day out on the hills.

This cleanup is the latest of many activities that have been co-ordinated between ARC, Gandan monastery and science and ecology students and lecturers from a range of Mongolian universities. It was supported by the World Bank. Other activities include study tours and publications and practical educational resources on environment and ecology.

It is part of a long term ARC/World Bank project in Mongolia, involving a range of stakeholders from religions, government, colleges and environmental agencies.

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