Area Studies
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THE POTOMAC CONFERENCE, October 5 - 6, 1992

October 5, Afternoon Session I. COMMENTARY

  Environmental Issues / Environmental Security
  Economic Development and Subsidies / 
  Impact of the Reform Policies in Tibet

James D. Seymour, Moderator

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And now we'll have some comments on that paper by Xue Haipei, the 
President of Green China.


I'll just say a few words so as to leave some more time for the 
questions for the speakers.

I'm actually not very much in a position to comment on that paper or 
environmental issues in general, but I guess out of institutional needs 
where I work, Green China, we have a strong interest in environmental 
issues in China, especially in the southwest China area.  This is 
because, first, China is, as many of you will not expect, one of the few 
top mega-biodiversity countries in the world.  In Southwest China, 
including Szechuan, Tibet, Hunan has a disproportionately higher 
concentration of all these biodiversities.  Actually, 60-70 percent of 
all the bio-diversity in China is concentrated in that area.  Tibet, in 
its geographical significance, is very important to all the Chinese 
geographers.  We know that all the time.

In addition to this bio-diversity, there are many other resources; for 
example, such as forestry and wildlife.  And there's also a wider range 
of sub-species that has developed, specifically because they have had to 
adapt to the high plateau, which are unique for that area.

What we will be concerned with and very much in line with the comments 
that Miss Tsomo just made, is we see the same pattern, or a very similar 
pattern as her observations.  That is, the Chinese government in the last 
ten years has introduced a lot of environmental or development projects 
in Tibet.  Many of these are large top-down priority projects, which 
simply shun local community participation.  I think they are just not 
comfortable with that.  The problem is that they have are bringing all 
these development projects there, that definitely I think will have some 
benefits, but very often those projects are very much insensitive to the 
environment, to the local communities.

For example, as she just mentioned, at Yamdro Lake [Yangzhuoyong Lake], 
is viewed as being in a most scenic area, namely the Lhasa area.  This is 
also a very sacred area.  It's much the same repetition of what we've 
been seeing regarding the Three Gorges in China proper - it is almost the 
exact same story.  In this case, you have one more factor there - that 
is, you have Han people, you're bringing another project into another 
ethnic area.

A big project like this has several other criteria to go on, like 
there's a wide campaign to encourage farmers to use fertilizers.  And I 
think there's a lot of insensitivity to Tibetan Buddhism.  A lot of 
farmers are very wary of using fertilizers, and the Chinese Government 
thinks that it is just superstition, and they want to do away with that.  
We have a very recent report coming out of Beijing from that Narti 
Research Institute which actually says that Buddhism is an impediment to 

So, given all this insensitivity, especially what we're seeing around 
these large projects in Tibet in the past few years, we really have all 
the more reason to be monitoring the progress on the projects there more 
closely.  And maintaining a higher alert.  Thank you.