September 5, 2011

Tibet: Government in Exile Warns of Dire Environmental Situation Facing the Region

A report recently released by the Kalon Tripa outlined the extent of environmental degradation due to excessive deforestation, minerals extraction, and construction of highways and railroads. It advocates making the region an exploitation-free international observatory zone in order to tackle important consequences such as water scarcity, which will affect not only Tibet, but also its neighbors.  

Below is an article by ZeeNews.

The Tibetan plateau is staring at ecological destruction due to extensive mineral extraction, deforestation and unscientific construction of highways and railways by the Chinese in the name of development, the Tibetan government-in-exile here says in a report.

"Human activities are mainly responsible for the destruction of Tibet's ecological balance," said the report titled 'A synthesis of recent science and Tibetan research on climate change'.

According to the report, the temperature increase on the Tibetan plateau is twice the global average, resulting in quicker degradation of permafrost, drastic change on climate pattern and desertification of vast grassland.

"The Chinese authorities blame the Tibetan pastoral nomads (who have preserved the fragile grassland for centuries) for desertification and put forth ill-advised policies that destroy the age-old nomadic way of life," it said.

The report calls for making the plateau an exploitation-free zone which would benefit both Tibetans and the world community. It was released last week by Kalon Tripa or Tibetan prime minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay.

To protect the Tibetan plateau from certain destruction, the report says there is a need for a water sharing treaty among the countries of the region and of making the Tibetan plateau an exploitation-free international observatory zone.

It recommends "enforcement of environment policies by tying greenhouse gas reduction into the current economic model".

"We hope that this report will serve as a further research tool to the Tibetan community and the Himalayan region," said Tenzin Norbu, head of the environment and development desk of the department of information and international relations, which published the report.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has also expressed concern over the issue.

"Global warming is a major problem that the world is facing today and the Tibetan plateau is already facing its impact," the Nobel Peace Prize winner said at a function in Orissa in January this year.

"The problem is much more serious than it is perceived to be. The glaciers are melting at a faster rate in the Himalayan region and deep inside Tibet. So it is very essential that we address it fast," he added.

According to the Dalai Lama's official website, he has expressed concern over deterioration of the environment in Tibet, the rapid disappearance of animal and plant life and the large-scale deforestation and mining activity at the place of origin of major international rivers.

"In the past, there were big herds of animals to be seen in Tibet, but few remain today. The large-scale deforestation in Tibet is a matter of great sadness. It's not only sad for the local area, which has lost its beauty, but for the local people who now find it hard to collect even enough fuel wood.

"Many of the rivers which flow through large areas of Asia, through Pakistan, India, China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, rivers such as the Yellow river, Brahmaputra, Yangtse, Salween and Mekong, all originate in Tibet. It's at the places of origin of these rivers that large-scale deforestation and mining are taking place. The pollution of these rivers has a drastic effect on the downstream countries," he said.

"According to Chinese statistics, there are 126 different minerals in Tibet. When these resources were discovered by the Chinese, they were extensively mined without proper environmental safeguards, resulting in devastation of the environment. As a result, deforestation and mining are causing more floods in the lowlands of Tibet," he added.

The Dalai Lama along with many of his supporters fled Tibet and took refuge in India when Chinese troops moved in and took control of Lhasa in 1959. India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans.

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