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News Update - Tibet at WSSD

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/09/01; September 1, 2002.]

September 1, 2002

Terraviva, the unofficial newspaper of the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development, 30 August 2002, Johannesburg, South Africa

Conversations on the Ground: Tibetans Bring a Gift and a Tale of Woe by Qurratul-Ain-Tahmina In hall eight at Nasrec, the venue of the People's Global Forum, four Tibetan monks in maroon and saffron robes stand guard over an intricate and exquisite design created with red, blue, yellow sand grains. The design known as mandala in Tantric Buddhism symbolises the healing energy of love, compassion and wisdom to take away the pain, hatred, greed, attachments, jealousy, and arrogance of this world.

At the end of the summit, the sands will be swept up and poured into a flowing river to let its energy flow and bring peace, tolerance, compassion and everlasting happiness to all life and everything on earth.

Along with this gift of goodwill, the priests have brought the story of sufferings of their people in a land occupied by China since 1949. The story is also of gradual destruction and depletion of the environment and natural resources of a land where ten of the major rivers of Asia originate. The 20-member Tibetan delegation does not have anyone coming directly from the land of Tibet. They are here from three Tibetan NGOs based in the United States and India. Since the 1950s the history of the Tibetans has been one of a people in exile. Members mention a tense relationship with the Chinese delegation of NGOs in Nasrec.

Ngawang Rigzin (Dawa) fled the Nechung Monastery in 1991 because of persecution by the Chinese authorities. "At that time," says Rigzin, "the Chinese police and military would always come to our monastery and put pressure on us monks to denounce H.H. Dalai Lama the 14th who has been in exile in India since 1959. They would try to persuade us to accept that our motherland was China and we should forget any other identity."

After a pause he adds: "Another very disgusting thing they did was forcing our women to have abortion. They also started settling people from Mainland China in Tibet to outnumber us."

Today, China considers a part of Tibet dissolved into it while the other part became, says Rigzin, the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. And both parts combined, in the 2.5 million square km of land about 6 million are Tibetan while 7.5 million are Chinese.

Rigzin who is now 35, was born and grew up in a village called Tolung Kgurmunub, close to the capital Lhasa. "I remember seeing very few trees in my childhood. But my parents would say there used to be dense forests there even in 1959. They said the Chinese made our people cut down the trees and took the timber away. So all I grew up seeing was stark hills."

One of the rivers originating in Tibet is the Brahmaputra which is known in Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo. "A branch of Psangpo ran through our village," Rigzin recalls. "Before the Chinese built those cement factories, in winter cars could run on the frozen river, but now even a man can't walk - the ice has grown so thin. The flow is less too."

Tenzin Phulchung, the young monk who is translating Rigzin s words adds that the destruction of Tibet s environment touches other countries including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and China.

To Rigzin sustainable development means utilizing the resources up to one's needs, without being destructive: "Buddhism teaches to quench one's needs without being greedy."

Rigzin still carries in his heart an image of the landscape of his village: "Snow-capped peaks in the distance, ranges of hills gradually touching the fields through which ran our river. In the summer it would all look so green."

Thoughtful, the monk says, "Our people can never see sustainable development until they are free. I pray that one day they can taste freedom and live in their land preserving the nature and its resources as per the teachings of our religion for harmony in life and nature."

As I leave the hall, I notice a banner on a wall saying China's Tibet: The World s Largest Remaining Colony.

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