"Settlement policies vary, and their effect on the social fabric of nomadic communities is complex. In many places, nomads have been encouraged to give up their animals, leading to reduced incomes, a rise in alcoholism and other social costs. A lack of planning has resulted in some settlements lacking water or power, officials admit. In many cases, nomads are ill-equipped to compete with Chinese migrant workers for jobs in nearby cities, and there has been insufficient retraining, experts said.
By settling nomads into towns, officials also risk losing valuable ecological knowledge and animal husbandry skills, said Liu Shurun, a former professor at Inner Mongolia Normal University who continues to study nomadism.
Diseases are also spreading among both animals and people, because there are fewer nomads to clean up livestock waste and animals have less access to nutritious grassland, Liu said. "The grass and the animals are like a couple, you cannot separate them," Liu said. "Before, nomads were quite selfless. It was very important to help each other when they moved around and in groups. But now each family settles in one place with their own plots of land, and they don't rely on each other as much.""