Beijing Water

China: Tibetan water plans raise concerns

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
August 9, 2006

China’s gigantic water bureaucracy constantly needs to find new work to do and is now turning its attention to Tibet, says a Tibetan expert on natural resources.

Prague: The 10 major watersheds formed by the mountains above the high Tibetan plateau spread water throughout Asia, serving nearly 47 percent of the world’s population. Although this vast volume of water is created mostly in Tibet, only 1 percent of it is used by Tibetans. Lured by this seeming abundance, China is considering a new mega-scheme for permanently diverting some 17 billion cubic meters of freshwater annually. The project would tap the Yalong, Dada, and Jinsha rivers, and channel the water to the Yellow River in northwest China. The cost estimate is more than $37 billion, and Chinese officials say work could begin as early as 2010. Environmentalists say the project would not benefit Tibet, even if it does boost the exhausted “mother river” of China. … Tashi Tsering, a Tibetan expert on natural resources at Canada’s University of British Columbia, says the project is “definitely not meant to develop Tibet.” Tsering says that essentially there are no benefits for the local people from areas where the water is being diverted. … Tsering says the water project mirrors a pattern of exploitation of Tibetan natural assets. And he says the gigantic water bureaucracy constantly needs to find new work to do, and is now turning its attention to Tibet.

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