THE POTOMAC CONFERENCE, October 5 - 6, 1992
SINO-TIBETAN RELATIONS: PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE
October 5, Afternoon Session I. COMMENTARY
ENVIRONMENT & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Environmental Issues / Environmental Security
Economic Development and Subsidies /
Impact of the Reform Policies in Tibet
James D. Seymour, Moderator
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JAMES D. SEYMOUR
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
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.