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Tibetans have natural rights to clean energy

By Wen Dao 
A report about environmental protection in Tibet was released yesterday, compiled by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) after an investigation and evaluation of a variety of construction projects for ecological preservation that were launched and built from 2008 to 2014. The report concludes that years of efforts to protect Tibet’s vulnerable ecosystem have paid off.
Natural resource development, especially water conservancy, has always been a crucial issue in Tibet. China’s mega projects to tap the substantial water resources in the Yarlung Tsangpo river valley have met quite a few challenges from both within and out side China.
Controversies have been raised mainly out of doubts over whether hydropower dams and irrigation constructions will undermine the fragile ecological balance. As a transnational river, constructions on the Yarlung Tsangpo, which later becomes the Brahmaputra, are anticipated to produce dramatic changes to downstream countries, such as Bangladesh and India, who are concerned about reduced water flow or floods.
Strategic concerns from bordering countries can be addressed by building mutual trust and coming to terms with each other. But whether constructions on the river will lead to irreversible destruction deserves meticulous research and long-term observation.
CAS has endorsed China’s construction projects in their report, saying all plans on the river have been vetted and evaluated thoroughly in order to make sure they are environmentally friendly and sustainable. Ecosystem protection always goes ahead of development in Tibet.
Although still one of China’s least developed regions, Tibet has seen major progress in many aspects, especially the economy, in the past decades. But the region has been struggling in a dilemma for a long time – the plateau’s extremely vulnerable ecosystem leaves scant room to turn its abundant resources into economic profits that can benefit the local people. Meanwhile, some people with ulterior motives keep churning out accusations to stigmatize the central government’s investments and projects as an attempt to destroy Tibetan culture, their way of life and many other traditions, and exploit Tibet’s abundant resources.
These groundless denunciations do not take into account that the well-being of Tibetans, especially ordinary people, has been greatly improved. The central government should keep in mind that local people in Tibet must be the first to benefit from projects such as water conservancies because it is their natural and legal right. Projects and investments in Tibet must take the well-being of Tibet and Tibetans as their priority.
In a shift of attitude, the World Bank has started giving more aid to hydropower projects as it is more environmentally friendly. Hydropower development in Tibet sticks to two principles: it must prioritize ecosystems and meanwhile, local residents must have more access to clean energy. (Global Times)

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