This is a part of the volunteer work I did for the CONTACT magazine, in McLeodganj.
Climate Change: Tibet
*representation of detailed article by Leslie Hook in the September 2, 2013 at Financial Times/Tibet.net
Here is a quick Fact: One in five people in the world get their water from river systems that are linked to the Tibetan plateau.
Tibetan plateau governs the Asian weather system, brewing the monsoonal rains each summer and steering westerly wind currents. Its lakes, glaciers and wetlands act like a huge water tower for all of Asia. Quite rightly, the plateau is often referred to as “The Third Pole“ by the scientists.
Climate change has gripped the Tibetan plateau with fervor. Just like the North Pole, the Tibetan plateau has been warming much faster than the rest of the world over the past 50 years. In fact, Of the 46,000 glaciers on the Tibetan plateau, many are shrinking.
Signs of global warming surfaced in 1980s and 1990s. The plateau observed severe impacts in ecological balance. Lakes started drying up, Pika mammals populations increased at exponential scales. Valuable resources such as caterpillar fungus: a medical aphrodisiac often referred to as “Himalyan Viagra” has been depleting.
In 1997, the Yellow River dried up over a 700km stretch. – it lasted more than eight months.
While the impact of global warming is apparent, the government and the locals seem to be in a clear disagreement over pointing out the cause.
In order to deal with the massive impact of climate change, a region known as the “Three River Source”, or Sanjiangyuan in Chinese was identified by the government and it began to come up with policies to protect it.
The government decided that the region’s traditional Tibetan herders had to go.
Across all Tibetan areas more than 600,000 nomadic herders have been moved into government-built towns and are given stipends. Herders say the government stipend is barely enough to live on.
Aggressive steps by the state include use of toxins to control pika, setting up of fences at grazing grounds and even artificial rains.
More and more research has shown that the science behind the state’s aggressive policies is misguided or incomplete. The government has already spent more than a billion dollars on “restoring” the plateau.
The government however, is ready with the next plan of Rmb20 billion. It will intensify its aggressive invasive policies. The locals for now have little choice but to adapt.