Swelling lake in Tibet poses threat to wildlife


DHARAMSHALA, October 19: A major salt lake in the Tibetan plateau in Qinghai Province has more than tripled in size since 2011 due to climate change, which poses threat to local infrastructure and wildlife, according to the Chinese government’s official mouthpiece Xinhua.

The surface of Hoh Xil Lake has grown from 45.89 square km in 2011 to the current 150.41 square km, said the Qinghai Institute of Meteorological Science.

The Tibetan leadership based here advocate the importance of the Tibetan plateau’s environment and has always voiced concern over it. Expressing similar concerns, experts say that the expansion of the lake is a result of the thawing of glaciers and increased rainfall under the influence of global warming.

The lake is deemed more hazardous since it is located in Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve, which is a home to several endangered species including Tibetan antelopes and wild yaks.

“The lake’s expansion will erode lakeside grassland and probably damage some nearby communication and transportation facilities,” said Wang Hailin of the reserve’s management bureau.

Though there has been no indication yet of damage to the habitats of antelopes and birds, the risks are mounting, he added.

The expanding lake has also raised concern for the world’s highest railway line, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, due to its proximity. The distance between the lake and the track has been shortened from 12 to nine km.

Local authorities have been closely monitoring the expansion of the lake, and are planning to counter it by building dams and diverting the water.

On 29 November, eve of COP21 Paris Climate Summit, Tibet Third Pole and International Tibet Network will be hosting a rally demanding the governments to take action on environmental issues especially in Tibet, which the organizers say is under serious threat from China’s failed environment policies.

Similarly, the Tibetan government in exile (CTA) will launch its campaign urging the international community and world leaders gathering in Paris to recognize the Tibetan Plateau’s importance to the environmental health of the planet and to make Tibet central to global climate change discussions.