Discourse of Zhang Tianhua, Bureau of Environmental Protection, Tibet Autonomous Region


Tibet, the main component of the Tibetan Plateau, averages above 4,000 meters altitude. It is a “source of rivers” and “source of ecology” in China, South Asia and Southeast Asia, a “startup” and “adjuster” for the climate in Asia and even the north hemisphere, and an important genetic storage of species and a key protection area for biological diversity in the globe. Both the Central Government and the Tibet Autonomous Region Government have always laid much emphasis on the ecological environmental protection in Tibet. Over half a century, they have viewed the ecological environmental protection and construction in Tibet as an important part of the modernization of Tibet all the time. So, they have boosted economic development, social progress and the improvement of people’s living standards simultaneously, and insisted on the policy to “pay attention to protection in development, and seek for development in protection”. In doing so, they have made great achievements. In today’s Tibet, there are beautiful mountains, clean rivers, diverse animals and flourishing plants; the environmental quality of water, air, noise, soil and radiations has remained in a satisfactory state. So, it is one of the places with the best environmental quality in the world.

1. The Achievements in Environmental Protection and Construction in Tibet

The building of a barrier for national ecological security in the Tibetan Plateau. The Central Government has chosen Tibet as an important national barrier for national ecological security. In Feb. 2009, it approved and implemented the Planning for the Protection and Construction of the Ecological Security Barrier in Tibet, deciding on the protection and construction of the ecological security barrier in Tibet as a key national ecological project. It intends to spend five Five-year Plan periods and invest more than 10 billion RMB to basically build up the Tibet ecological security barrier by 2030. Up to that time, the grassland degeneration and rat troubles in Tibet will have been largely harassed; the controlled areas of desertized lands and eroded soils will have been greatly increased; both the environmental protection at the source sites of large rivers, important lakes, wetlands and valleys and the protection of biological diversity will have been greatly boosted; and an environmental supervision system and a monitoring network will have been improved. In addition, the traditional energy in rural areas will have been largely replaced, and environment, economy and society will have shown a tendency of harmonious development.

The Intensified Protection of Important Ecological Areas in Tibet. There have been built up 45 natural reserves in various types at levels (with 9 at national level), 21 ecological functional reserves (with one at national level), 7 national forest parks, 3 geological parks (with two at national level), and one national famous scenic zone. The natural reserves amount up to 412,260 square km, 34.38% the total areas of Tibet. These reserves and parks have efficiently protected 125 kinds of wild animals and 39 wild plants supposed to be under national key protection as well as some important ecological systems in Tibet.

Active Construction and Comprehensive Control of Environment. The governments have constantly increased their investment in the environmental protection and construction, and invested 6.46 billion RMB totally from 2001 to 2008, actively boosting the environmental protection and construction. The governments have done basic work on environmental protection, including the survey of the status quo of environment, the division of ecological functions and the research of ecological compensation. They have implemented the protection of natural forests in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, the project of returning farmlands to forests, and the afforestation in key areas. Meanwhile, they have stopped the felling of natural forests for commercial uses within the whole Tibet, afforested 3.71 million mu lands, and delimited 8.37 million mu mountainous areas for the natural growth of forests. At the same time, the governments have carried out a system of contracted responsibility for grasslands, and implemented the project of returning grazing to grasslands. These two activities have impelled the protection and restoration of 45.91 million mu natural grasslands. 3,266,820,000 mu national key forests in Tibet have been protected for public interests for long years, and 640,000 mu desertized lands and 370.1 square km eroded soils have been controlled. The substitution for traditional energy in rural and pasturing areas have been greatly boosted, with 65,000 methane pools built up in the rural areas within the whole Tibet, and 325,000 peasants and herdsmen have been able to live a convenient hygienic life. Solar ovens and solar energy water heaters have been spread and used all over Tibet, and the installation capacity of solar energy light voltage power stations have reached 9,000 kw.

2. The Emphasis on Environmental Protection in Economic Development

The Improvement of Sustainable Development. Tibet Autonomous Region has stressed both environmental protection and development, implementing the related policies of the central government earnestly. The Regional People’s Conference of Representatives has examined and promulgated more than 10 local statutes concerning the protection of environment and resources, and the Regional People’s Government has presented the Administrative Methods for the Environmental Protection of Concentrated Sources of Drinking Water in Cities and Towns of Tibet Autonomous Region and some opinions on the intensified environmental protection concerning farming and pasturing areas, urban and township communities, tourism and mining. In addition, the Tibet Region Government has implemented both the Planning for the Prevention and Control of Pollution in the Drainage Areas of Five Important Rivers of Tibet Autonomous Region and the Division of Ecological Functions of Tibet Autonomous Region, actively boosting the comprehensive decision-making for environmental protection and economic and social development. The People’s Government of Tibet Autonomous Region decided to plan the division of major functions all over the region in 2008, now it has specified the functions and development tendencies of different areas in accordance with the resource distribution, environmental capacity, environmental enduring ability and population in each place as well as the development planning and industrial policies of the Region. In this way, it combines the planning of regional economy reasonably with the goal of environment protection, developing and building in a scientific way.

Strictly Limited Environmental Entry, and Standardized Development and Construction Activities. A system of influences over environment has been strictly implemented, and an estimate of the influences of more than 30 plans over environment has been done. In this way, the implementation rate of environmental influence estimate for the construction projects all over the region reaches 90%, and that for key construction projects amounts 100%. Environmental protection has been strengthened in development and construction, and we abandon resolvedly any projects harmful to environment even if they may be extremely profitable. The mining of gold has been completely forbidden since Jan. 1, 2006, and the mining of iron since Jan. 1, 2008. For the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which has attracted the attention of the whole world, 1.54 billion RMB has been invested in accordance with the construction requirement of an ecological belt. That has efficiently protected the environment and natural landscapes along the railway line, and set up a model of environmental protection in the history of railway construction.

Strengthened Prevention and Control of Pollution, with Great Efforts on the Improvement of Producing and Living Conditions. The principle of prudent industrial development has been followed all the time. Tibet clearly forbids industries of serious pollution and high energy consumption, such as paper making, steel and iron, chemical industry, and it closes the door on any projects that pollute seriously and may incur serious damage to the environment in Tibet. Tibet Autonomous Region has invested as much as hundreds of millions RMB in the standard-reaching control of key industrial pollution sources, resulting in the standardized emission of contamination from major polluting enterprises. At the same time, it has constantly eliminated backward production techniques and facilities, closing 9 cement product lines, 7 small-sized steel plants and 4 small-sized paper making factories.

Strengthened Environmental Law-Enforcing Supervision to Maintain Environmental Security. Tibet has been active in performing activities such as the prevention against “white pollution”, the “Centurial Tour of Chinese Environmental Protection—the Tour in Tibet”, and “Punish Enterprises Discharging Contamination Illegally and Guarantee People’s Health”, and strengthening its environmental law-enforcing supervision over resource exploitations such as minerals, water, tourism and Tibetan medicines and the construction of key infrastructure. With the strengthened environmental law-enforcing supervision, it has resolved a set of environmental problems that people have reported bitterly, boosted the improvement of environmental quality, and guaranteed people’s health and environmental security.

Much Emphasis on Environmental Protection in the Development of Tourism. Tibet Autonomous Region has laid much emphasis on the coordination between tourist development and the protection of environment and cultural heritage, and given priority to the protection. Tibet works out tourist development planning, giving priority to environmental protection. In doing so, it has tried to select tourist development models scientifically, plan tourist routes correctly, determine tourist flows strictly in accordance with environmental capacity, and arrange tourist sites reasonably.

Undeniably, the environment in Tibet as a whole is still degenerating slightly and even worse due to the impact of factors such as global warming, although obvious achievements have been made by the great efforts that the Central Government of China and the local governments in Tibet have made to protect the environment in Tibet. In future, Tibet will not only have to exert itself to protect and improve the existing environment and maintain ecological functions, but also have to actively respond to the environmental pressure and challenge caused by rapid economic and social development, especially the global warming. We will make more efforts to construct an ecological civilization in all respects, boost Tibetan environmental protection and construction as a whole, intensify the prevention and control of contamination and the administration of radiating environment, implement stricter environmental law-enforcing supervision, and strengthen the construction of an ecological Tibet. In this way, we will strive to build a firm barrier for the ecological security of Tibet, guarantee clean water and blue sky in the snowy plateau, and create a more beautiful environment and a better future.

[Suggest to a Friend]