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ICJ: Chinese Conservation Programmes in Tibet

The least populated quarter of Tibet, the high cold semidesert of the Chang Tang, in north west Tibet is the largest declared nature reserve, over 247,000 sq. km. Other nature reserves are on the north slope of Chomolangma (Mt. Everest), Nielamu, Jiangcun, Nyingji Baji, Bomi, Zayul, Metog, Yigong, Leiwuqi-Changmaoling, Mankang, Napahai, Bitahai, Arjin Shan, Kokoshili, Chilian range, Aksai-Gobi, Niao Dao, Pengbo Crane reserve, Shengzha Crane reserve, Longbao Crane reserve. The Jiuzhaigo area has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status for its landscape values and its authentic Tibetan villagers.

Most of these nature reserves are small, understaffed or unstaffed, and lack authority to prevent exploitative activities. This reflects the low status and powerlessness of environmental agencies in China. The designation of these areas is often the result of concern over the fate of a particular species and the area may not be large enough, or comprehensive enough to preserve a habitat. Many of these areas are populated, yet local Tibetan populations have no representation on management committees.

Responsibility for managing the reserves is split among a variety of official agencies. As the Beijing central government receives lesser percentages of national GDP each year in revenue, authority for managing and financing conservation increasingly devolves onto local agencies such as the TAR Department of Forests, whose primary task, and source of income, is the exploitation of forests. Bureaucratic obstructiveness, jealous clinging to local fiefdoms, lack of cooperation among regulating agencies is a common feature of institutional management of nature reserves. The World Wide Fund for Nature understandably refers to many existing reserves as “paper parks.


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