Almost a month after Dr. Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration published an article in The Guardian about the need to change the flawed environmental policies in Tibet, Mr. Zeng Rong of the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom published a letter on September 3, 2017.
When we discuss about many problems in Tibet, numbers are used by the Chinese authorities for their justification. Mr. Zeng Rong is no exception.This is sad and unsurprising. Sad because the enormity of these numbers gloss over and hide the sight and depth of Tibetans’ real lives and their culture, and unsurprising because this shows, like any other development stories, how far these bureaucrats are from the reality, and, therefore, have nothing but reports and numbers.
However, this does not mean that the ever growing number of nature reserves is fake, nor that the investment of billions of yuan is a lie. It means that if we are talking about such a huge and fragile ecosystem which is warming twice the rate of global average, and when millennial old sustainably living nomads have been resettled, their pastures confiscated in the name of « ecological migration » to restore the degraded grasslands- which were in fact caused in the first place by unscientific, non-inclusive, non-participatory policy process and decision making – how can we possibly be convinced that “most areas remain in their pristine state, and the environmental quality remains good” and « the traditional culture being fully restored, preserved and promoted »?
On 7th July, when Qinghai Hoh Xil or Achen Gangyab in Tibetan got nominated as natural World Heritage Site, the Chinese Delegation said, « …the Chinese government has fully demonstrated its determination to protect the nominated property and to fully respect the will of the local herders, and their traditional culture, religions, beliefs, and lifestyle.” This was in spite of prior warnings from International Campaign for Tibet and other experts to the Committee to defer, refer or introduce amendments for an in-depth Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, protection of traditional rights, and thorough mapping of sacred cultural sites. Now, if those words were truly meant, it surely does hold valid beyond the nominated property.
As the question remains about how the approximately one thousand nomads in Achen Gangyab will be able to continue their traditional and sustainable lifestyle, in the same province of Qinghai or Amdo in Tibetan-which has an overwhelming Tibetan majority, to follow the author’s logic- Tibetan nomads were recently banned from grazing their herds on their pastures. They are Tibetan nomads in Darlag county, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. They are also Tibetan nomads in Mangra county, Tsolho Prefecture. Of course, these decisions were neither lawful nor scientifically, culturally or economically sound. If anything, Y50 ($6) per sheep and Y150 ($22) per yak will be fined for grazing in Mangra county, and the nomads will have no choice but to sell their herds out of desperation. But they still challenged by submitting an appeal to the senior leaders of the People’s Republic of China against the unconstitutional decision. Will these last of nomads’ appeal be heard?
Mr. Zeng Rong’s arguments from across the continents show that neither huge expenditure, nor Tibetans being majority in conservation projects address the real problems of Tibetans. The big numbers hide the realities and struggle that Tibetans go through every day, even today. The language or logic of his arguments clearly proves how removed he is from the truth. The traditional stewards- be it farmer or nomad- need to have an agency in every echelon of governance, management or policy making in every environmental conservation project.
 Tibet’s fragile ecosystem is in danger. China must change its flawed Environmental Policy, Lobsang Sangay, August 7, 2017: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/07/tibets-fragile-ecosystem-is-in-danger-china-must-change-its-flawed-environmental-policy
 Ethnic Tibetans are major beneficiaries of China’s environmental projects, Zeng Rong, September 3, 2017: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/03/ethnic-tibetans-are-major-beneficiaries-of-chinas-environmental-projects
‘Wasted Lives: A Critical Analysis of China’s Campaign to End Tibetan Pastoral Lifeways’, May 2015, Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy http://www.tchrd.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Download-Report.pdf
 Nomads in No Man’s Land’, June 30, 2017, https://www.savetibet.org/nomads-in-no-mans-land-chinas-nomination-for-unesco-world-heritage-risks-imperilling-tibetans-and-wildlife/
 ICT Inside Tibet: Tibetan nomads make rare appeal against removal from grasslands, September 5, 2017, https://www.savetibet.org/tibetan-nomads-make-rare-appeal-against-removal-from-grasslands/