China’s Land Management Policies in Tibet ‘Unsustainable’: Report

Chinese policies aimed at mitigating climate change on the Tibetan plateau are destroying traditional Tibetan approaches to managing the land, and serve only to further government efforts to move nomads from their grazing grounds, according to a report released this week.

“China has explicit and elaborate plans to empty Tibet of Tibetans, concentrating them in towns and cities, with few ways forward into the urban economy, and no way back to their lands,” says the report “Unsustainable Futures” by the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

“Nomadic families all over Tibet have, over decades, been gradually squeezed into poverty by ever-tightening restrictions on the size of land allocations,” says the TCHRD report, which comes ahead of a UN climate change conference to be held at the end of October and in November in Glasgow.

Other Chinese policies impacting traditional nomad lifestyles include the compulsory fencing of allocated lands and construction of houses on winter pasture, limits on herd size, and pressure to sell more animals at younger ages, TCHRD said.

Tibetan nomads have been blamed for decades for state failures in rangeland management, the rights group said, adding that official rationales for their forced relocation include poverty alleviation, wildlife protection, and carbon capture.

 “But Tibetan customary modes of production generate very little of the emissions that cause climate change,” the rights group said in its report.

China now declares huge watersheds on the Tibetan Plateau to be national parks in an effort to mitigate climate change and offset its reputation as a major world polluter, TCHRD said.

“[But] as the world’s biggest maker and user of coal, cement, steel, aluminium, copper, and much else, China is the primary cause of climate change emissions.”

China’s exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources has at the same time done serious damage to the region’s environment, said Lobsang Yangtso, a campaign and research assistant at the International Tibet Network, a global coalition of groups working on Tibetan issues.

“And this is certain to increase in the near future,” Yangtso said, speaking to RFA.

“Where mining has taken place, the landscape has been destroyed and land has been ruined for any kind of agriculture. Tibetans have been forced to relocate, and waste from the mining pollutes most water sources,” Yangtso said, adding that heavy vehicles and equipment used in mining also pollute the air.

Tibetans living in areas being mined have no say in what the Chinese government is doing, Yangtso said.

“The Chinese attitude toward mining in Tibet is that China has the exclusive right to exploitation, and this is clear from what the Chinese government has done in the past,” he said.

Also speaking to RFA, TCHRD researcher Tenzin Nyiwoe said that the forced relocation of Tibetan pastoralists from their grazing lands into urban settlements has greatly disturbed the nomads’ traditional ways of life.

“This is one of the most important points raised in our report,” Nyiwoe said.

China’s claims to be taking a leadership role in global climate management should be closely examined at the coming Glasgow summit, and their policies on the Tibetan Plateau should be questioned, said Mirza Rahman, an independent researcher on environmental issues from Northeast India.

“Tibet’s ecology is very important to climate security,” Rahman said.

Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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