In what it says is "a significant move aimed at addressing climate change and preserving the biodiversity of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau", China recently passed a national law. The new legislation, set to take effect on 1st September claims to focus on the protection of glacial permafrost and emphasizes the conservation of biodiversity in the region. This development is to be viewed cautiously since CCP has a history of using government policies to greenwash away its crimes.
China, which has unlawfully occupied Tibet since 1959, is involved in a number of activities - from damming its rivers to relocating Tibetan nomads - that are destructive of Tibet’s environment. What makes it more worrying is that these are being carried out under the garb of environmental preservation.
The law calls for the creation of "conservation areas centered around proposed national parks". Though China claims that the new national parks are part of the “nation's growing effort to protect the environment while improving locals' livelihoods by boosting ecotourism on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau”, this is a cause of worry for local Tibetans, especially Tibetan nomads.
The law does not entirely forbids mineral resource exploitation and the law requires such activities to be “strictly limited”. This is a vague take on the issue and mining will continue to occur in the ecologically sensitive Tibetan plateau.
Since 2006, CCP has implemented large-scale programs to accelerate the relocation and sedentarization of the nomadic population, viewed by the authorities as ignorant, backward, and irrational; whose ‘overgrazing’ caused significant damage to the Tibetan grassland ecosystem. They argue that careless overgrazing and unscientific land management by herders cause grassland degradation, erosion and gradual desertification, which is far from the truth. The traditional grazing practiced by Tibetan nomads is crucial for Tibetan range lands.
While the Chinese authorities claim that dams are green, and thus better for the environment than burning coal, China's dams, which it is building to divert water into its own territory, are targeted towards creating a “hydro hegemony” based on the control of the Tibetan plateau. There are a number of other instances that can be, and should be identified and called out as greenwashing.
This is to be viewed with caution also because Tibetan plateau plays a central role in the climate change discourse today. Tibet is home to rivers that feed Asia and is the Third Pole. Recent incidents of flash floods and droughts should not be ignored. Rampant construction of dual use infrastructure, hydro dams and uncontrolled tourism have affected the fragile ecosystem, accelerating the impacts of global warming and climate change in Tibet.
Edited and collated by Team TRC