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Tibet 2003: State of the Environment

[Environment and Development Desk; Department of Information and International Relations; Central Tibetan Administration; Dharamsala, India. White Paper, July, 2003]


I believe that the environment and the critical need for environmental protection are two areas where the views of Beijing and the Central Tibetan Administration genuinely converge and could serve as a solid basis for greater collaborative work in other vital areas.

The various campaigns by the Tibet Support Groups have generated a worldwide concern for the endangered environment of Tibet which led to a series of detailed reports enabling a deeper understanding of the serious, perhaps irreversible impacts of mistaken policies implemented in Tibet. In 1992 and again in 2000, we published book length reports covering the full spectrum of loss and degradation of the Tibetan environment. Those two reports, Tibet: Environment and Development Issues 1992 and Tibet 2000: Environment and Development Issues are available on request at ecodesk@gov.tibet.net. Eventually, on 10 March 2003 the Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China issued a white paper on the state of the environment in Tibet called White Paper on Ecological Improvement and Environmental Protection in Tibet.

In recent years to realise the aims of China's Western Development Program, Beijing has been pouring money into building infrastructure in the minority-inhabited regions to exploit regional resources and to tie these regions politically with China. While commending China on an orderly leadership transition, the Central Tibetan Administration is especially appreciative of the concerns expressed by some members of the new Chinese leadership on the urgent tasks of environmental protection. These leaders have expressed their concerns not only on the feasibility of the largescale Western Development Program but also on its negative impact on the environment. Some of these leaders have also expressed their serious concerns about the grandiose ³south-north water transfer² which will carry water from the minority-inhabited south-western regions, where water is comparatively abundant, to the parched north which is taken over by desertification and drought.

China's latest white paper on the Tibetan environment is a justification for all the big development projects that China hopes to undertake in Tibet, especially the railway line linking Lhasa with China. We call upon the new Chinese leaders to reconsider these big projects and replace them with small-scale development projects that materially benefit the Tibetan people and which do not undermine the integrity of Tibet's eco-system. Mammoth development projects geared towards exploitation of Tibet's natural resources will in the long-run prove disastrous for Tibetans, China and all the neighbouring countries that depend on the life-sustaining river waters of the Tibetan Plateau. The disastrous 1998 Yangtze floods, caused by rampant deforestation in Tibet, are a clear lesson that Beijing cannot implement narrow-minded policies in Tibet without suffering catastrophic environmental consequences.

The eco-system of Tibet is not only important for the inhabitants of Tibet but it has an effect on the environment of the whole of Asia due to Tibet being the source of the larger rivers and also because the Tibetan Plateau controls the monsoon patterns, as clearly established by scientists. The immediate effects of this are felt in India, China, Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries downstream.

This Report crafts a positive roadmap that urges China to a more enlightened thinking for the welfare of the future generations of Tibetans and peoples of the neighbouring countries who benefit by the resources of the eco-system of the world's largest plateau.

Environmental issues deserve to be considered in their own right, on their merit as part of the heritage of the world. Whether Tibet's political issue is resolved or not, the environmental issue cannot be neglected as it is directly related to the welfare of the peoples of India, China and those of other downstream countries. For this reason, His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested in his 1987 Five-Point Peace Plan to make the Tibetan Plateau into a zone of non-violence and a sanctuary for environmental conservation.

Samdhong Rinpoche
Kalon Tripa and Kalon for the Department of Information and International Relations
Central Tibetan Administration
July 2003


[Source: Used with permission from Environment and Development Desk. Department of Information and International Relations; Central Tibetan Administration; Dharamsala, India.]

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