European Parliament Hosts Conference on Tibet's Environment
by Elena Gaita
June 27, 2013
On June 19, 2013 the European Parliament held its 97th Tibet Intergroup meeting, hosting a conference on the state of Tibet's environment, sponsored by Members of Parliament (MEPs) Thomas Mann (European People's Party), Satu Hassi (Greens) and Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (Socialists & Democrats), co-organized by the Office of Tibet in Brussels, ICT Brussels and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).
In their opening speeches, both MEPs Thomas Mann and Satu Hassi highlighted how the destruction of the environment in Tibet is interlinked with human rights violations, and that Tibet's environment is not only a local and regional issue but also a global one. Mrs. Hassi also mentioned the recent disaster at the Gyama copper and gold mine near Lhasa, which killed 83 miners.
Keynote speaker of the conference, entitled "Tibet's Environment: Denuding, Degrading & Depopulating", was Tenzin Norbu, Director of the Environmental and Development Desk of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). He gave a presentation focusing on resource exploitation, nomads' resettlement and climate change. Being a huge source of water reserve, Tibet is often referred to as "Asia's water tower" or the "Third Pole." Many Asian rivers and millions of people in downstream countries depend on the Tibetan glaciers. However, the 46.000 glaciers on the Tibetan plateau are retreating very fast and if this trend continues, more than 60% of them will have melted in the next 40 years. While stressing Tibet's richness in natural resources, Tenzin Norbu explained that these resources are in danger of disappearing soon due to over-exploitation of minerals and forests on the Tibetan plateau. As the Chinese government is undertaking development plans that foresee the construction of railroads, highways and dams in the region, Tibetan nomads, who have been living on the Tibetan plateau for centuries, are now being forcibly relocated, which is preventing them from living their traditional lifestyle. 1.43 million nomads have already been moved to Chinese settlement camps and further 185.500 families are expected to be moved by the end of 2013.
Tenzin Norbu's presentation was followed by the screening of the short documentary "From Nomad to Nobody" by Michael Buckley, giving a rare insight into the life of Tibetan nomads and the many challenges they currently face.
In his concluding remarks, MEP Thomas Mann highlighted that the European Parliament would continue to strongly support the Tibetan cause and announced Tsering Woeser's candidature for the 2013 Sakharov Prize, a very prestigious prize awarded every year by the European Parliament to honor individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. Former recipients of the prize have been Nelson Mandela (1988), Aung San Suu Kyi (1990) and Reporter Without Borders (2005).
 For more information on the documentary, see http://wildyakfilms.com/nomadworld/index.htm
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