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Page last updated at 03:55 GMT, Monday, 27 July 2009 04:55 UK

Mongolian wilds inspire UN's Ban

By Michael Kohn
BBC News, Ulan Bator

A man stands up to his thighs in water, and more rain falls on Ulan Bator
Floods have hit Mongolia's Ulan Bator even as desertification affects nomads

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been in the wilds of Mongolia, travelling over rough roads to meet a nomad family.

He has attended a traditional sports festival and visited a nature reserve.

Mr Ban's primary reason for visiting the north Asian country is to learn how climate change affects the far-flung corners of the globe.

Desertification and deforestation are major threats to Mongolia's nomads, despite recent flooding in the capital.

Child jockeys serenaded their horses before a 10km (six-mile) horse race across the vast plains of central Mongolia.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon watched with delight as the horses galloped across the plains.

Traditional Mongolian wrestling followed and then Mr Ban tried his hand at archery, launching an arrow into the blue sky.

He finished off the day spotting wild horses at a nature reserve before bunking down in a traditional felt ger, the portable home of the nomads.

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But the countryside tour was not all fun and games.

The visit is Mr Ban's latest effort in his goal to learn about how climate change affects remote countries like Mongolia.

Mr Ban discussed desertification and deforestation with local herders who breed sheep, cows and horses on diminishing pastures.

Democracy and privatisation were enshrined in a new constitution, but the collapse of the economy after the withdrawal of Soviet support triggered widespread poverty and unemployment in the sparsely-populated, landlocked country.

Mr Ban has previously visited environmental hotspots such as the melting icecaps of the Antarctic and the rainforests of Brazil, hoping to keep the spotlight focused on global warming.



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