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TIBET: Enduring Spirit, Exploited Land

Endangered Tibetans

(Excerpts) Until the 1950 occupation, Tibet had a stable population of approximately 6 million people. There was sufficient food, negligible unemployment, and little crime. The carrying capacity of the land was adequate for the needs of its population. In stark contrast, the population of China has been growing continuously. With well over 1 billion people, land resources in China are inadequate for food and other natural resources. China's intent in taking over Tibet was to transfer a significant segment of its population onto the Tibetan Plateau. However, Chinese authorities refused to admit this until 1994 when an official announcement from Beijing confirmed its established policy of promoting Chinese migration to Tibet.6 To facilitate this transfer, the Chinese developed an extensive infrastructure in Tibet which includes a highway system, expanded food production, industry, and human services. They accomplished this by heavily utilizing the Chinese army.


The Chinese have been successful in obtaining funds for community development projects in Tibet from a number of governmental and non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations and Wildlife Conservation International. Most of these organizations have explicit guidelines requiring the involvement of local people in the economic development programs they fund. The Chinese have succeeded in convincing funding organizations that Tibetans support the projects, but once the money is allocated the foreign funding organizations have no control over the projects.


Nevertheless, success is possible for simple development programs in some of the isolated communities. Local economic resources, windmills, drip irrigation, and solar greenhouses could solve some of the problems faced by local residents. Proposals have considered implementing agriculture demonstration projects, improving irrigation systems and drinking water, and introducing latrines requiring minimal amounts of water (see photo, p. 75). Additional plans include establishing wind-generated projects, solar water-heating systems, solar ovens, and bio-gas projects. The success of each of these programs depends on the involvement of the local community in the planning and development phases as well as the ongoing financial, technical, and management commitment from the organization involved in the program.

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