Tibetans: "We don't need alms, just clean water. We don't need grains, just clean water."

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Authorities rebuff pleas after road building pollutes water supply (photos)

In the latest case of environmental destruction in Tibet, the sole water supply of a village in the east of the country has been polluted by a road building project and authorities have refused to take action. Appeals by villagers to local authorities have been met with “reprimands” according to local sources. As China implements its economic plan of developing Tibet through resource exploitation, environmental damage caused by mines, dams and roads and land-grabbing for infrastructure projects have become among the most common triggers for Tibetan protest in recent years,

The road-building project commenced in April in Rebkong county, digging up land at the site of Shadrang village’s only source of drinking water (1). Locals say the water is now so dirty with mud and rubbish that it's not fit for humans or animals to drink. High-resolution photographs of children and other villagers washing clothes and cleaning vegetables in the stream are available from Free Tibet (2). Tibetans appealed to local authorities, stating "We don't need alms, just clean water. We don't need grains, just clean water." The authorities have refused to take any action.

A report by Tibet Watch published earlier this year documents confirmed environmental protests in Tibet since 2010 (3). Mining is the most common trigger for demonstrations, with damming and river pollution also provoking opposition. Tibet’s rich natural resources include fresh drinking water, rivers suitable for hydropower and large-scale mineral deposits such as gold, copper, silver, chromium and lithium.

Protests include individual acts, creative forms such as the dumping of dead fish at the offices of local authorities in 2013 (photographs available, 4) and mass protests involving hundreds or thousands of people. Many protests have been met with significant violence. In Dzatoe County in August 2013, a protest was dispersed with beatings, tear gas and the firing of shots (4, photos and video available). In Dechen County in July 2014, protesters were severely beaten by police and told by the head of the mining operation that they had “every right” to kill them if they protested again (photographs available).

Protests against land-grabbing have led to arrests in several parts of Tibet in recent weeks (5).

Free Tibet campaigns manager Alistair Currie says:

“Infrastructure projects in Tibet are motivated by China’s focus on resource exploitation, not the interests of Tibetans. Roads and highways facilitate the movement of equipment and workers in, and extracted resources out. In Shadrang, authorities are investing in building a road instead of addressing the fact that locals’ only source of drinking water is a stream. That makes pretty clear what China’s priorities are - not even pollution of that water supply applies the brakes to this project. Pollution, destruction of the environment and land-grabbing are part and parcel of the economic exploitation of Tibet, and of little concern to China’s government. This is a deep source of grievance to Tibetans and increasingly a flashpoint for protest.”

Information provided by Tibet Watch

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For further information, contact Free Tibet campaigns and media manager Alistair Currie:
E: alistair@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes to editors
(1) Location: Shadrang Village, Nyentok (Ch: Nianduhu) Township, Rebkong (Ch: Tongren) County, Malho (Ch: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province.
(2) Also available on Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/sets/72157653987299316
(3) Tibet Watch Environmental protests on the Tibetan plateau (February 2015) at http://www.tibetwatch.org/uploads/2/4/3/4/24348968/environmental_protests_on_the_tibetan_plateau.pdf See press release at http://freetibet.org/news-media/pr/new-report-details-tibetan-protests-against-environmental-degradation-and-exploitation
(4) Contact free Tibet
(5) See Free Tibet press release, 19 August 2013 http://freetibet.org/news-media/pr/beating-tear-gas-and-electric-shocks-china-reacts-environmental-protest-tibet
(6) See Free Tibet news stories : 4 June 2015 http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/large-numbers-tibetan-nomads-arrested ; 19 May 2015 http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/more-detentions-tibet