Environment Protection and Ecological Preservation in Tibet
Deputy Director of the Environmental Protection Bureau of the Tibetan Autonomous Region
1. The Environmental Conditions of Tibet
Tibet is located in the main part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It covers a territory over 1.2 million square kilometers, averaging more than 4,000 meters above sea level. With lofty and arduous topography, special geographical conditions, and abundant wild plant, animal, water and mineral resources, it has been called "the roof of the world" and "third pole of the planet" for long, and now it is an important ecological security barrier of China.
The Chinese Government has attached much importance to the ecological construction and environmental protection in Tibet, viewing them an important part of the modernization of Tibet, and simultaneously improving economic development, social progress and the people's living standards all the time. At present, the water, air, sounds, soil, radiation and ecological environment quality in Tibet still remain in a benign state, and Tibet is still one of places with the best natural environments in the world.
2. The Strengthening of Ecological Construction and Environmental Protection, and the Building of Ecological Security Barrier of Tibet
In recent years, the Chinese Government has constantly increased its investment in the ecological construction and environmental protection in Tibet; merely during the "Eleventh Five-year Plan" period, the funds used in ecological construction and environmental protection in the Tibet Autonomous Region have amounted up to 10.6 billion yuan, more than three times as many as those in the last five-year plan period.
--The improving of ecological construction and environmental protection of Tibet as a whole, and the endeavor to build a Tibetan ecological security barrier. The Central Government examined and passed "The Plan of Protection and Construction of Ecological Security Barrier of Tibet" in 2009, establishing the project of protection and construction of ecological security barrier of Tibet as a national key ecological protection project. This plan has proposed to invest 15.5 billion yuan within a five five-year plan periods so as to implement 10 ecological construction and environmental protection projects. These projects can be divided into three types: the first type consists of five key protection projects focused on the protection of natural ecological systems, which are particularly the protection of natural grasslands, the prevention of forest fires, the prevention of harmful pests, the protection of wild animals and plants, the construction of conservation areas, the protection of important wetlands, the substitution for the traditional energy in farming and pasturing areas; the second type consists of four key construction projects focused on the restoration and rebuilding of degenerating ecological systems, which are particularly the construction of shelter belt systems, the artificial growing of grass, the improvement of natural grasslands, the prevention and control of deserts, the prevention and control of water loss and soil erosion; and the third type is the construction of a support and guarantee system for the guaranteeing, protecting and implementing of the above-mentioned construction projects, i.e., the inspecting and testing project of ecological security barrier. By 2030, it will have basically built up a Tibetan ecological security barrier. By June 2011, 2.93 billion yuan has been funded for the projects in the Plan, and the ten projects in three types in the Plan have been implemented in all aspects.
--The strengthening of construction of key ecological conservation areas, and the effectively protecting of biological diversity. By now, the whole region has established 47 natural conservation zones, which account for 34.47 percent of its territory in total, 21 ecological function conservation zones, 8 national forest parks, 5 national wetland parks, 4 geological parks, and 3 national scenic zones. These zones have provided effective protection for 125 kinds of national key protection wild animals, 39 kinds of national key protection wild plants and important ecological systems in Tibet. For example, Tibetan red deer, which the international animal research circle had thought to have been extinguished early, were re-discovered in Tibet in 1990s, and their populations have constantly increased; the populations of Tibetan antelopes have increased every year, and have amounted up to 150,000 heads or so at present, and black-necked cranes have amounted more than 8,000. In a foreword that Jimmy Carter, former president of the United States, wrote for the book "Across the Tibetan Plateau: Ecosystems, Wildlife, and Conservation", he appraised the protection cause of biological diversity of Tibet as such, "Where else has 40 percent of the land been set aside in nature preserves in twenty years? It is not easy to increase the population of an endangered species. But the industrious Tibetan people did it."
--The implementation of natural forest and grassland protection and shelter belt system construction for the improvement of human settlement environments. 18 million mu natural forests have been supervised and protected through years. A project of ecological forest construction in key zones for public interest all over the region has been implemented, 3.72 million mu lands have been forested, and more than 18.72 mu mountains (beaches) have been preserved for forestation. The desertification of more than 640,000 mu land has been brought under control. The forest coverage in Tibet has increased from less than 1 percent in the 1950s up to 11.91 percent at present. Compared with 30 years ago, the sandstorm weathers have decreased more than 30 days in average in Lhasa, Shannan (Lhoka) and Xigaze prefectures.
--The vigorous popularization and utilization of clean energy based on the effective control of greenhouse gas emission. The greenhouse gas emission mainly comes from the greenhouse gas emitted in the course of agricultural production and biological material burning, which belongs to "subsistence emission". In recent years, 557 million yuan has been invested, 185,000 households methane construction has been completed, and 395,000 solar energy stoves have been put into use. The total installation capacity of wind and sunlight complementary power generation has reached 220 KWs. More than 10,000 household solar energy systems have been put in use. The areas with solar energy concentrated heating systems have amounted up to 10,000 square meters. And nearly 400 PV power generation stations have been set up in areas where there had been no power supply. Thanks to the popularization and use of clean energy, Tibet has greatly decreased its consumption of traditional biological energy such as forest, bushes, grass and dung, and has thus effectively protected regional ecological environment.
3. Attaching Importance to Environmental Protection in Development, and Guaranteeing Clean Water and Blue Sky in the Snow-covered Plateau
--Tibet has adhered to the comprehensive decision-making about environment and development, boosting sustainable development. Tibet Autonomous Region has established a civilized development path characterized with developing production, enriched life and benign ecological conditions, insisting on viewing the endurance capability of ecological environment as the precondition and basic criteria of economic development and resource exploitation. Aiming at benign ecological conditions and the building of an ecological Tibet as its important goal of development, Tibet has been established in its ecological and resource advantages, actively developing characteristic advantageous industries, forbidding and restraining the development of heavy pollution industries, and strengthening the environmental protection in resource exploitation. By doing so, it has boosted the permanent utilization of hydropower, tourism, mineral and biological resources and the sustainable development of industries.
--Tibet has insisted on environmental protection for the sake of the people, making great efforts to improve the people's life. In its economic construction, Tibet has always stuck to the principle of prudent development of heavy industry, explicitly prohibiting such heavy pollution and high energy consumption industries as paper- making, iron and steel and chemical industry, establishing strict environmental entrance conditions, and preventing any projects of heavy environmental pollution and ecological destruction from entering Tibet. It has conducted control work on key industrial pollution sources to make them meet the standard of waste emission, closing down a group of enterprises with heavy pollution, invested more than one billion yuan to strengthen the construction of urban environmental infrastructure such as sewage disposal plants and dumps and conduct the control of key pollution source. By doing so, Tibet has made its major pollution enterprises meet the standards of contamination emission.
--Tibet has strengthened environmental administration and guaranteed environmental security. In strengthening the environmental protection of development and construction, Tibet has strictly carried out all regulations in all links such as decision-making, planning, environmental influence appraisement, supervision and inspection, and the examination and test and acceptance of completion of projects, making sure to decrease the influence of development construction over environment to the lowest degree. We refuse to accept any projects what may affect ecological conditions no matter how profitable it may be. The people's government of Tibet Autonomous Region has made a decision to totally forbid any exploitation of gold dust and iron dust resources, and closed down a group of mines that have strong influences over ecological environments. In the world-attracting Qinghai-Tibet Railway Line construction project, for example, 1.54 billion yuan environmental protection funds have been invested, which have effectively protected the ecological environments and natural landscapes along the railway line.
Both the country and the autonomous region have made great efforts to protect the ecological environments of Tibet, and have achieved remarkable effects. Departments of environmental protection have been built at the regional level, and in 7 districts (cities) and 73 counties throughout the region. In order to better protect the ecological environment of Tibet, the Tibet Autonomous Region is taking vigorous steps to earnestly implement the decision and deployment of the Central Government about to "Construct a Firm National Ecological Security Barrier in the Tibetan Plateau, Build an Ecological Tibet, and Make Sure Benign Ecological Environments". Doubtlessly, the Tibetan people will create more harmonious ecological environment, and enjoy a happier and better life in the future development.
I have worked at the environmental protection circle of Tibet for nearly 30 years. In these three decades, I have personally experienced the radical changes of Tibet, and deeply felt that the ecological environment has been effectively protected and improved while the Tibetan people's living standards are constantly improved, so Tibet has made a win-win achievement of economic development and ecological and environmental improvement.