“Tibet’s Water Pollution and China’s ‘Global Warming'” by Woeser

Photo taken by locals of mining area in Gyama Village

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on November 19, 2009 and posted on her blog on December 16, 2009. Please scroll down for more photos.

Tibet’s Water Pollution and China’s “Global Warming”
By Woeser

Today, global warming is a fashionable topic; leaders of superpowers and popular environmental organisations all talk about wanting to curb global warming. An authoritative scientific publication reported that global warming will “impact every person’s life, with the poor and the weak being most severely affected”. Yet, all the elements that lead to global warming, such as environmental pollution, soil erosion and desertification, a sharp decrease in forest resources, water pollution, toxic waste pollution and much more, are in fact man-made and visible everywhere on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, which is often exaggeratedly called “the world’s last piece of pure land”.

The water of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in particular is really deteriorating. Originally, as noted in the classic works, the Buddhist master Atisha uses graceful poetry to praise: “taste a mouthful of the water of the Land of Snows, it is ice-cold and tasty, fresh and pure, clear and fragrant; when one drinks it, it will not hurt one’s spleen or stomach, but it will moisten one’s heart. This is Tibetan water with its eight virtues.” But what about today? Nyima Tsering, a monk from Jokhang Temple, once said when interviewed by journalists, that in the past when he became a monk he could drink the water from the Lhasa River and it was absolutely not toxic, but now it was really a pity that one could not drink the river water anymore.

Hence, how is it possible that the once so fresh water has turned into dirty water? On the upper reaches of the Lhasa River, a variety of cultural and historic sites with long history as well as plenty of natural resources can be found. For example, Gyama village of Meldro Gungkar County is the birthplace of Songtsen Gompo, the greatest monarch of the Tibetan Empire. This place not only offers beautiful scenery, it is also rich in a variety of metals such as copper, lead, zinc, gold and silver, which, according to reports, have a potential economic value of 120 billion RMB. Hence, the place has also become a destination for many Chinese miners tending to their business of greed. The Gyama copper mine, which is home to polymetallic ore, is currently the mine that generates the largest daily turnover on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau with 12, 000 tons per day. The mining rights belong to the China National Gold Group, which has direct ties with the Chinese State Council.

A Han Chinese miner whose online name is “Tibet’s Stonemason” revealed on his blog: “Beneath this stunning scenery, everything is already heavily damaged. Originally, there were four or five companies mining for Gyama’s polymetallic ore. Moreover, these companies distributed the mining rights to many different mining groups. And those groups would open at least one, but often many new mining holes. Outside those holes, on the mountain slope, it would always be full of discarded stone scrap…”

Over the past few years, when I went to Gyama village, I learned that because in some mining areas there was none or no adequate sewage systems in place, this has caused dirty water polluted with chemicals to flow all over the place. It not only led to the nearby villages’ loss of drinking water but also forced them to gain access to drinking water through a primitive pipeline connected to the isolated and rugged area at the back of the mountain. The harvest of highland barley in the fields decreased massively and forage grass on the pasture land was also poisoned. Along with the worsening of the current situation, livestock has been dying more frequently and many farmers and herdsmen have contracted obscure and difficult to cure diseases, life has become very tough.

The locals of the region have repeatedly tried to submit petitions to the environmental departments requesting to solve the pollution problem. Last year they appealed to the authorities saying that “since mining started, four thousand mu (1 mu = 0.0667 hectares) of farmland have slowly been destroyed and it is even more difficult to measure the damage it causes to grassland, trees, livestock and wild animals […] we have reported this to the higher authorities in the past but we were blamed for this ourselves, they say we should have reported it when the factories were first set up but we are just ordinary citizens, we could not know that the establishment of mining factories would bring about such disastrous consequences. This year, they are building another, even bigger processing factory, when the people did not agree to have the factory built, the township government forced us to give our consent…”.

On 20th June this year, because Tibet endured a drought that had never occurred before, the mining areas in Gyama village even used Tibetan people’s drinking water to wash the ore, which polluted the source of drinking water. Tibetans strongly opposed on just grounds but only suffered from Han Chinese violence leading to many Tibetans being severely injured. Tibetans gathered at the township government and protested, hence, the authorities sent out thousands of military police to suppress the protesters and arrested the Tibetans who led the protests with the excuse of “inciting separatism”.

This really left people greatly disappointed, what was originally about the exploitation of natural resources, and the associated problems of water pollution, was politicised by local officials; this is actually the thing that the authorities in Tibet are best at, they politicise all problems which are initially of social or an economic nature just to be able to unscrupulously pillage Tibetan people and gain access to the natural resources. But this also makes people even more anxious because of the harm that over-exploitation has done to the local people, another danger with specifically Tibet-related characteristics comes to the surface: should this not also be part of the current “global warming” debate in China today? Beijing, November 19, 2009 The following photos show Gyama Village and the polluted environment due to mining that has destroyed the area, as well as poisoned the villagers and livestock. (Photos taken by local Tibetans).

 

The following photos were downloaded from the internet from the Han Chinese miner “Tibet’s Stonemason’s” blog who photographed the mining area and revealed: “Beneath this stunning scenery, everything is already heavily damaged”:

“Tibet’s Stonemason’s” blog exclaims: “This is located in Tibet’s Meldro Gungkar county and shows Gyama township’s newest core sample of black ore. Blue bornite and golden yellow chalcopyrite in the entire core, it’s so abundant!”

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)