Tibet’s Untouchable Environmental Challenges

Tibet’s environment is in jeopardy due to mining and hydropower operations, but despite increasing damage, many are afraid to speak up due to the sensitive nature of Tibet-related topics. Even for Southern Weekly, one of the more liberal newspapers in China, the issue of environmental degradation in Tibet remains thorny. Tea Leaf Nation reports:

In early April, several satellite images were sent to Southern Weekly; the pictures suggested that the fatal landslide in a Tibetan mining site on March 29 — labeled a “natural disaster” — might be related to inappropriate and illegal operations. However, Southern Weekly did not pursue the matter further, believing that the evidence was “still not strong enough” for them to address such a sensitive topic, although several Chinese and international experts believed otherwise.

[…] While foreign media and NGOs are virtually banned from entering Tibet, domestic media and NGOs are also aware that they should stay out, or at least keep quiet even on environmental challenges in Tibet.

“Different parties, including both the Chinese government and overseas ‘human rights’ activists, always politicalize problems in Tibet, making real environmental challenges untouchable,” said Gao, an environmental NGO worker in western China.

Also see “Landslide Draws Attention to Toll of Mining on Tibet” for more information on mining operations in the area.

It is not only Tibet’s natural environment that is at risk from development. At South China Morning Post, Amy Li describes writer Woeser’s shock at changes to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa after a visit to her mother last year:

Once home, Woeser said she was astonished by both the scale and the nature of commercial developments going on in the ancient part of the Tibetan capital.

“Lhasa is being destroyed by excessive commercial development,” she wrote in the headline of a petition on Saturday that was quickly censored after it went viral on Weibo. […]

[…] “I therefore plead to Unesco and other international organisations, Tibetan scholars and experts, and all of you, please stop this horrible modernisation from committing unforgettable crimes to Lhasa’s old town environment, culture and architecture,” she wrote.

Woeser’s letter received thousands of comments and reposts from supporters on Weibo before it was taken down by censors on Monday.


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