08/02/2011, 00.00
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China pollutes Tibetan monastery

Lead in drinking water in the area of Kumbum monastery, a place of special devotion for Tibetans, because of waste from mine and local foundry. The authorities falsify the analysis, the police hunt protesters, while the residents fall sick and hundreds of children have too much lead in their blood.
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - The water of the famous Tibetan monastery of Kumbum (Chinese: Ta'ersi) and the nearby village, in Rushar County (Huangzhong) in Qinghai, is "highly polluted" because of waste from a mine and a local foundry. The group International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) denounced the indifference of the authorities and their attempts to cover everything up, despite the frequent sudden illnesses of residents because of lead poisoning.

According to ICT, June 30 a petition was also presented to the authorities, reported on a blog, denouncing that "highly polluting and uncontrolled mining has caused a disastrous situation for the residents." The problem is an old one but previous appeals to the authorities have not even received a response and "the situation has worsened this year, especially during the months from May to July, with eight residents who have found their drinking water very polluted turbid and disgusting. " "Monks and residents who drank water suffered nausea, felt powerless and dazed and some were admitted to hospital".

"The villagers have repeatedly occupied the mine entrance, asking that the mountain that is sacred to Tibetans, is not excavated and asking for special protection for the Kumbum monastery ". But in August 2010, Chinese police fired on a peaceful protest, killing one Tibetan.

Kumbum is the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Galugpa sect, the most followed in Tibet. Today it is a regular destination for Buddhist pilgrims and tourists.

The severe pollution had already been denounced even by the state news agency Xinhua in 2006. But since then nothing has been done and ICT reports that the authorities are corrupt, they have manipulated the results of tests on drinking water and tried to silence human rights activists and residents. The authorities, instead of controlling the mine, have driven about 30 thousand farmers from their land to expand the industrial area and bring many companies unwelcome in most other parts of China because they are "highly pollutant”. Local sources report that over 100 children have excessive amounts of lead in their blood. When the wind blows, dust and fumes smelling of the factory invade the village.

Lead is toxic if ingested and can cause anemia, poisoning, bone disease and even cancer of the digestive system. It can also block the brain development of children.

The industrial development of China is often pursued without respect for the environment and the question is resurfacing now that more and more factories are situated in the Tibetan areas. On 15 May 2010 in Labrang in Gansu province in Qinghai, the police fired on peaceful Tibetan demonstrators against a highly pollutant local cement factory, causing 15 injuries (see AsiaNews 05/19/2010, Gansu: police fires on Tibetan protesters, 15 wounded and 4 arrested).

Beijing claims to have greatly improved the economy and the standard of living in Tibet. In reality it exploits the rich deposits of the area without worrying about pollution, but taking away the raw materials for the benefit of the rich southern provinces.

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