Contamination of Drinking Water Caused by Mining: An Appeal Letter from Kumbum Monastery

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated an appeal letter from Amdo, Tibet, that was written on June 30, 2011 and published on a TibetCul blog on July 13, 2011. The original post is no longer accessible:

Located in today’s Qinghai Province in the PRC, as the appeal letter states, Kumbum Monastery is a sacred, historic and very important site for Tibetan Buddhism. The letter appeals for action to be taken by governmental authorities over the lack of clean drinking water in the area, brought on by intensive mining activities by several big enterprises, causing environmental destruction and illness.

On July 17, 2011, the following video was uploaded on a Chinese video-hosting site, showing clearly the polluted state of the water: The video description contained the text of the appeal letter.

“An Urgent Appeal Letter from All Monks and Lay People
In and Around Kumbum Monastery”
Screenshot of the Appeal Letter as it Appeared on a TibetCul Blog

To State Council, Provincial, Municipal and County Level Leaders:
Kumbum Monastery is a state-level protected cultural heritage site, and it is the sacred birthplace of the great Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tsongkhapa and a scenic tourist area known both domestically and abroad. The geology of Kumbum Monastery is a naturally-formed and extremely sacred eight petal lotus created by Mendan Gorge and the holy Lhamo Mountain, which has created the local beautiful waters, beautiful mountains, beautiful land, beautiful people, and beautiful heaven on earth where the holy mountains and holy waters raise people of all nationalities.
Moreover, Lhamo Mountain is the place of enlightenment of the protector deity Lhamo, and occupies a very special and sacred place in the heart of pilgrims. Mendan Gorge contains Ming Dynasty ruins of the Great Wall and historically is a strategic military location where it is said a single man could guard against ten thousand enemies. Holy water from Mendan Gorge is the water for everyday use and drinking water for a total of over ten thousand people in Kumbum Monastery’s monastic community and over ten neighbouring villages.
But in recent years, the Ganhetan Industrial Park has been constructed in the vicinity of Kumbum Monastery, attracting the Western Regions Mining and Smelting Works, the Qinghai Salt Lake Chemical Engineering Co. Ltd., the Western Steel Mining Co. Ltd., and the Qinghai Shunxiang Mining Industries Co. Ltd. to carry out large scale mining and extraction around Kumbum Monastery’s holy Lhamo Mountain and Mendan Gorge, causing serious damage to the lie of the land, to the shapes of the mountains and to the water courses, polluting water sources, and destroying the plant cover. In 2006, more than a hundred local children fell ill and suffered from lead poisoning, a matter which to this day has still not been properly addressed.
High-polluting and wanton extractive business practices have brought bitterness and disaster for the local people. Local villagers have obstructed the mining on many occasions, demanding that the sacred mountain not be mined and requesting Kumbum Monastery to act as an official protector. The monastery management committee submitted a report on the situation to the higher authorities, but there was no response. As of this year, the situation has become more serious, especially during the months of May to July, when eight villages had serious contamination in their water pipes with the water becoming muddy and foul smelling. Monks and local people became nauseous, their bodies became listless and they felt dazed and some even had to be hospitalised from drinking the water.
On June 22, representatives of the monks took the contaminated water to Rushar County authorities and protested about the destruction of the sacred mountain by these companies and about pollution to the water sources leading to hardship with drinking the water. The County committee ordered the County environmental protection office to take samples of the water for tests and said they would inform the monks of the results by the end of the month. In the meantime their advice was not to drink the polluted water.
The area surrounding Kumbum Monastery is full of enterprises that are high in energy consumption, excavating ore, destroying sacred mountains, adversely affecting the historical environment and landscape; and highly polluting enterprises, emitting toxic gases and dust. Blue skies and clear waters are no longer visible through in mass of muddy air, the grave consequences of which are even spreading from Rushar County and affecting the development of the tourism industry in Qinghai.
Lacking in the requirements of a scientific outlook on development and violating the provisions for sustainable development, the enterprises, by their actions, are turning a blind eye to the environmental costs of making money, which is seriously hurting the religious feelings of the monks and the ordinary people. This is not good for the progress of unity of the nationalities, not good for stability and harmony in Tibetan areas, not good for the local people’s livelihoods and economic development, and not good for the strategy of sustainable development.
Because the water sources have been seriously polluted and the holy mountain has been seriously damaged, there is strong discontent among Kumbum Monastery’s monks and its surrounding religious believers. The relevant departments are urgently called upon to pay close attention, and the Party and government are urged to severely sanction three enterprises, and please move out the high-polluting enterprises in Ganhetan Industrial Park around Kumbum Monastery, including the Xinzhuang Cement Factory, returning blue skies and clear waters to Kumbum Monastery. Please issue measures for the protection of Kumbum Monastery’s eight-petal lotus mountains and natural heritage, correctly carry out duties for the protection of important state-level cultural heritage, protect nationality cultural heritage, and protect holy Buddhist sites, and resolutely put a stop to the heinous practices of reckless digging and wanton excavation.
Kumbum Monastery monks and lay believers strongly demand an immediate stop to mining at holy Lhamo Mountain and Mendan Gorge, and ask that the polluted water be cleaned as soon as possible, and that the monks and the masses who have drunk this polluted water be given physical examinations as soon as possible.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Today, Director the State Administration for Religious Affairs Wang Zuo’an was entrusted by State Chairman Hu Jintao to lead a party of over 20 people from the Ministry of Health, the State Environmental Protection Bureau and the Land and Resources Bureau, etc, to the Kumbum Monastery Democratic Management Committee to hear the opinions of the monks, and I personally put this petition into the hand of the Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
July 13, 2011

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