Tibetan Nomads


The ultimate 'greenwashing' by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is its designation of certain regions as 'national protection areas'. Nomads are bluntly told they must leave such a designated area because it is a national park and thus must remain uninhabited to protect it. There appears to be a much more sinister agenda behind the creation of these protected areas. In a number of cases, after the nomads have been forcibly moved out, mining companies and hydropower engineering consortiums have moved in.

A case in point here is Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve in Amdo (Qinghai). Sanjiangyuan means 'Three Headwaters' in Chinese, and refers to the very important headwaters region of the Mekong, Yangtse and Yellow rivers in Amdo. Some context here: looming in the background is a lunatic plan to divert the headwaters of the Yangtse river uphill to the Yellow river through a series of tunnels. This plan embraces three mega-dams—with wall heights of 175 metres, 302 metres and 296 metres—linked to a series of tunnels totalling hundreds of kilometres in length.

This harebrained plan could well cause extensive environmental destruction. Given this context, it is somewhat suspicious that CCP authorities would announce a massive eco-conservation project called the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve in 2000. A larger effort got under way in 2005: this nature reserve covers some 153,000 square km, which is about the size of England and Wales combined. Usually, the first thing done when announcing a national park of this huge size is to issue a map showing its boundaries. Not Sanjiangyuan. A map gazetting the region did not appear in any official source until early 2009. That's because the whole exercise appears designed to bamboozle not only Tibetan nomads, but also watchful foreign outsiders. The official map of Sanjiangyuan that finally surfaced is a chaotic jumble of zones, with 'buffer zones' permitting 'development'. What this refers to is options for mining and for building of hydropower stations. When Canadian mining company Inter-Citic was permitted to start up operations in one such buffer zone, the company alluded to the region as being 'uninhabited'. What they failed to mention is that all the nomads of this region were forcibly shifted off the same grasslands to make way for mining exploitation. This is being done under the cloak of conservation.

One official Chinese website shows a bevy of small dams under use within the region of Sanjiangyuan: one picture bears this curious tagline: 'Benefiting from the ecological protection, this year Sanjiangyuan area in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province provides enough water to indicate that hydropower stations are in good process.'

It's anybody's guess what that phrasing actually means, but it certainly doesn't sound like conservation.

Map of Three Headwaters (Sanjiangyuan) National Nature Reserve:

map of Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve
(click to enlarge)

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