XI. Protection of Living
Environment

While vigorously developing Tibetan economy, the people's government attaches great importance to environmental protection in Tibet. Conscientiously carrying out the state's basic policy on environmental protection, the Tibet Autonomous Region perseveres in its strategy of synchronized planning and undertaking of economic, urban, rural and environmental construction. It has implemented the three policies of making preventive measures a priority, assigning responsibility to those who created pollution to clearing it up and intensifying environmental control. The Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and the people's government of the autonomous region have published a series of local laws and regulations, as well as administrative rules and systems, covering the protection of environment and natural resources in line with actual local conditions. Examples are the Regulations for the Protection of Forests in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Provisional Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region on Administration of Grasslands and the Notice of the People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Protection of Aquatic Resources. In the field of wildlife protection alone, there are more than 20 documents on related regulations and systems. In 1975, the autonomous region set up an environmental protection institution to beef up unified supervision and administration over environmental protection work. In 1990, the Environmental Protection Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region was established to take charge of such undertakings in the whole region.

The region has also made considerable headway in improving ecological environment. It has seen the building of over 13,000 major and minor irrigation channels, some 5,200 large and small reservoirs able to hold more than 270 million cubic meters of water, and 18 river embarkment projects, with a total length of about 250 km. For many years, chemical fertilizers and pesticides have been employed on a sound basis. Many measures have been taken to protect grasslands, such as enclosure with fences for livestock breeding and irrigation. Efforts have also been made to develop river banks and plant trees and grass. A rational system of rotation of herds has been enforced, and efforts have been made to prevent the blind reclamation of wasteland at the expense of grassland. By the end of 1990, the total area of fenced grassland had reached 183,000 hectares, while 161,000 hectares were under irrigation. Rats, pests and virulent plants have been kept under control over 1.187 million hectares of grassland. The region's ecological environment has improved steadily.

Work has simultaneously proceeded on tree planting, the safeguarding of forests and the prevention of forest fires. Hillsides have been closed off for forest conservation and the destructive lumbering of forests banned. From the early 1960s to the present, the region has planted 70 million trees and hillsides closed off for forest conservation reached 140,000 hectares a year. Tibet now has 6.32 million hectares of forests, of which 22,000 hectares have been planted by people in the region. Forested areas have been expanding every year, with the increase in standing timber greater than that of felled lumber. The region has set up seven nature reserves, while another five are under construction or in the planning stage. Reserves are to reach 325,300 square km, accounting for 26.5 percent of the region's total area, effectively protecting rare wildlife and plants.

In accordance with local conditions, Tibet has steadfastly pressed ahead with construction of hydropower stations and worked hard to exploit geothermal energy resources and popularize the use of solar and wind energy. The region has since liberation built 424 hydropower stations with a total installed generating capacity of 109,700 kw, and two geothermal power stations. The use of solar energy stoves has been introduced throughout the region, with the figure reaching 17,750. Over 105,000 square meters of solar energy housing have been built and 19,000 square meters of solar energy heating devices have been installed. In addition, the region has introduced some 700 wind-driven generators. The use of these pollution-free energy resources plays an important role in the protection of the environment.

While bolstering the ecological environment, Tibet is strengthening environmental administration. For all construction projects that might affect the environment, the region follows the "environmental impact appraisal" system and the system of designing, building and putting into operation pollution treatment facilities and construction projects at the same time. Some sources of pollution have been curbed. Industrial waste gas disposal has reached 80 percent. Meanwhile, efforts have been made to investigate the origins of industrial pollution in Tibet, investigate and study the background value of soil environment, investigate and study the natural radioactive level in the environment, and investigate wild plant and animal resources. These provide a scientific basis for environmental protection, rational use of natural resources and economic development in Tibet. In the field of urban and rural construction, the region has coupled rational planning and distribution with construction of basic supportive projects. Urban infrastructure facilities have increased in the region. In Lhasa, green areas make up 17.6 percent of the city's total area, with an average per-person share of 12 square meters. In order to have timely information on the quality of the region's environment, the Tibet Autonomous Region has established the Environmental Monitoring Station in Lhasa. Two more are under construction in Xigaze and Qamdo.

According to the monitoring station, environmental conditions are good in Tibet. Generally speaking, there is no pollution of the atmosphere or water. No acid rain has fallen in the region. The annual level of suspended particulate matter in the urban atmosphere averages 340 microgram/cubic meter a day, well within state standards. Apart from slight pollution in several sections of rivers, the water quality of the region's rivers and lakes is good. Radioactive elements are at the normal background level, causing no deleterious pollution. The Dalai Lama clique's accusations that China has stored its nuclear wastes in Tibet are therefore purely fiction.

Of course, some undesirable environmental problems do sometimes arise. For example, the quality of grassland tends to deteriorate, and the habitat of some rare animals is gradually shrinking. The people's government of the Tibet Autonomous Region has taken counter-measures by strengthening administration, publicity and education. Serious penalties are meted out to those who violate the laws and regulations on environmental protection. As a result, the numbers of some animals on the verge of extinction, such as black-necked cranes, takins and tigers, have increased in recent years.