06/25/2009, 00.00
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Chinese mining causing environmental disasters in Tibet

by Nirmala Carvalho
Tibetan groups slam indiscriminate Chinese mining. The development of Tibet’s mineral riches is undermining its fragile environment and polluting water sources on which 47 per cent of humanity depends.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Tibetans and their supporters staged a die-in protest (pictured) in Dharamshala (India) yesterday to protest mining in Tibet by Continental Minerals, a subsidiary of Canada-based Hunter Dickinson. The action is a part of a global campaign demanding the company to immediately cease all mining operations at Shethongmon [Chinese, Xietongmen] in central Tibet.

“Under Chinese occupation, Tibetans are denied the internationally recognised right to determine the use of their own land and resources,” said Tenzin Choedon, programme director of Students for a Free Tibet-India (SFT-India).

In the last few years China has in fact encouraged mining development in Tibet, especially by junior mining companies. But this is depleting Tibet’s mineral wealth in favour of China and represents a danger to the country’s fragile ecology because of the destruction of vast unpopulated areas and the pollution of water sources.

Ten major river systems, including the Yarlung Tsangpo/ Brahmaputra, the Sutlej and the Indus, have their source in Tibet.

Most mining sites are located near these major rivers and their tributaries. Chemicals from mining are released into these rivers, where they poison the water.

“Almost 47 per cent of the world's population depend on the water sourced from the Tibet plateau and three of our [India’s] major rivers come from Tibet,” said, Kirti Kapoor, a student from Delhi University and a member of SFT-India.

The Chinese government and foreign mining companies could destroy not only Tibet’s fragile environment but also destroy “the lifeline of almost half of the world population.”

Tibetans have also been involved in other fights as the one above.

In recent weeks in Tibet itself Tibetans have blocked the main access road to a mine located on Ser Ngol Lo Mountain, Markham County, a place which is sacred to them.

Despite the intervention of the Chinese military, the authorities have had to give in and shut down the mine.

However, in the city of Gyama, near Lhasa, a mining company is carrying out a water-diversion project involving the Gyama Shingchu River to channel water to the mining site even though this will deprive the area’s farmland of much needed water.

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