Blood diamonds in Tibet? Tibetan anti-mining protestors confront Chinese security forces

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This is to share news reports and images of anti-mining protestors (local Tibetan villagers) having to confront Chinese security forces in Zatoe County in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province. From what I can tell from these news reports, the situation has been very tense for the last few days and it is getting worse. 

All photos on this post are from Woser's blog. Read her Chinese language blog for more information about the situation.

Compare this photo to the one below. It looks like the protestors lying on the ground have been shot with tear gas.

Ultimatum Issued to anti-mining protestors. August 18, 2013

Mass protest in Tibet against Chinese mining. August 18, 2013

Several Tibetans Wounded in Crackdown on Mining Protest (Updated). Central Tibetan Administration, August 17, 2013

China's diamond rush in Tibet sparks massive protest, Central Tibetan Administration, August 16, 2013

Tibetans in Tense Standoff With Chinese Miners. Radio Free Asia, August 15, 2013


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False attribution in media on the Yarlung Tsangpo dam projects

Friday, April 19, 2013

When you work with media, there is the risk of being quoted out of context. Sometimes it can be worse: you will be attributed to having said things you have not. Such an incident occurred with me recently.

I was approached by Richard Finney, an editor at the Radio Free Asia, about concerns on the Zangmu dam project on the Yarlung Tsangpo-Brahmaputra river.

I e-mailed back saying:
"Zangmu and other dams they are currently building on the mainstream of the Yarlung Tsangpo-Brahmaputra river are run-off-river projects so it may seem like, as several Indian leaders seem convinced, that these will not impact flow into India. However, the concern is not about one or two dams but [that] a series of dams will be built on the river. No one knows how all of these dams will cumulatively affect the river's environmental flow, especially given the uncertainties of climate change impacts on the glaciers that feed these rivers."

However, Finney's published article, "Concerns Arise Over China's Dam Building Drive in Tibet", published on 17 April 2013, quotes me as having said:
"The Zangmu and other dams planned for the Yarlung Tsangpo will not make use of reservoirs."

As readers can see, I did not say that the planned dams will not use reservoirs. I said that the dams they are currently building are run-off-river projects. There's a big difference between projects currently under construction, which we know from reports that these are run-off-river projects, and other planned projects, the technical details of which are unknown.

I have requested Richard Finney to rectify the false attribution. Let's see what can be done.

Richard Finney apologized and made changes to the original news story.
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2013 Update: Dams on the Drichu (Yangtze), Zachu (Mekong) and Gyalmo Ngulchu (Salween) rivers on the Tibetan Plateau

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This is an updated map and list of hydropower projects (HPP) in the watersheds of the Drichu, Zachu and Gyalmo Ngulchu rivers. The map and the lists is complemented by three Excel sheets with more information, including references and coordinates of dams, on the (click on the names to access files) Drichu, Zachu and Gyalmo Ngulchu rivers.

The previous version was posted on this blog in 2010. 

China’s government is planning and preparing for the construction of a cascade of hydropower projects along each of the three rivers: the Salween, the Mekong and the Yangtze. Many of these projects are listed in China’s 12th Five Year Plan. In addition to mentioning the projects on the three rivers, the 12th Five Year Plan also gives priority to projects on the upper Machu (Yellow River, 6 projects) in Qinghai to the north, and the Nyagchu (5 projects, with others already under construction) and the Gyarong Ngulchu (Dadu River, 11 projects) in Sichuan to the east. As projects in Sichuan, Qinghai and Yunnan are completed, projects in TAR, moving generally from east to west, will be developed. As these projects get developed, necessary infrastructure will be in place to develop the Brahmaputra River's the Great Bend area. The electricity generated will be exported east to China using Ultrahigh Voltage transmission lines or used locally mainly for mining and mineral processing.

In the updated lists below, we have provided the closest identifiable Tibetan place names by studying the location and name of the projects. While majority of the Tibetan place names are accurate, many may be slightly off the mark. Two Tibetan language maps were used for identifying Tibetan place names. One of the maps is Amnye Machen Institute’s “Tibet and Adjacent Areas under Communist China’s Occupation” and the other map is published by Tibet Automomous Region (TAR) Bureau of Cartography. Readers’ assistance in improving and updating these location names and other information will be highly appreciated

Categories of Projects

The hydropower projects are grouped into five categories.

Operational/Built; black colour. A hydropower project is categorized as Operational if there has been an announcement that at least one generator is functional. This does not mean the project is completed. This may take several more years. When a project is completed it is then categorized as Built

Under Construction; red colour. Examples are: river being blocked, cement being poured, etc., that is, work on the ground. Photos are very useful evidence in this case.

Preparation for Construction; red-ochre colour. Reports of preliminary feasibility studies, Environment Impact Assessments, road construction, immigration, etc. will put a project in this category.

Under Active Consideration; ochre colour. In this category a project has been announced but no evidence has been found that it will be constructed in the immediate future. 

Preliminary Analysis; yellow colour. In this category site identification, preliminary discussions, etc. are under way. If a project is in this category it has been proposed, but there is no evidence that it will go ahead, and may not go ahead at all.

Note that the colours of the latter four categories grade one into the other, from red to yellow. This is intended to indicate the fuzziness of the categories, which parallels the fuzziness of the available information.

Hydropower projects on the Drichu, Yangtze river on the Tibetan Plateau
The Drichu flows from Qinghai, along the Sichuan-Qinghai border, the Sichuan-TAR border, and the Sichuan-Yunnan border, into Yunnan. Each of these sections has its own political arrangements. Consequently Karze Prefecture announced three groups of three, eight and two hydropower stations on the Drichu.

Along the Qinghai-Sichuan border there are: Xirong (西, རྩེ་མདའ་ 320 MW), Shaila (晒拉, དམར་འབྲིང་ 380 MW), and Guotong (果通, བེ་མདའ་ 140 MW). The Sichuan-TAR border: Gangtuo (岗托, སྐམ་ཐོག་ 1100 MW), Yanbi (岩比, སྤྱི་སྒང་ 300 MW), Boluo (, དཔལ་ཡུལ་ 960 MW), Yebatan (叶巴 གླང་སྨད་ 1980 MW), Lawa (拉哇, ལྷག་བ་ 1900 MW), Batang (巴塘, འབའ་ཐང་ 740 MW), Suwalong (苏洼龙, སྭོ་བ་ནང་ 1160 MW), Changbo (昌波, འཕྲང་པོ་ 1060 MW). Along the Sichuan-Yunnan border: Xulong (, སྡེ་རང་ 2220 MW) and Benzilan (奔子, བཀྲིས་རང་མཁར་ 1880-2100 MW) . Yebatan, Lawa, and Suwalong are currently receiving the most attention.

In Qinghai the  Drichu (this stretch of the Yangtse is in Chinese called the Tongtianhe, 通天河) is under study to identify possible hydropower projects, which include Mariji (马日给, ནན་གྱིས་ 10.4 MW), Yage (牙哥, འབྲིང་དཀར་ 63.6 MW), Lumari (马日, འུར་རི་སྤུ་བྲག་བརྒྱ་ 72 MW), Reqin (, རི་བཟང་ 200 MW), Lixin (立新, མགྲོན་མདའ་ 130) , Dequkou (德曲口, ཤ་རུ་དགོན་ 276.7 MW)), Leyi (, གྲོང་མོ་ཆེ་ 112.8 MW), Genzhou (跟着, སྐལ་བཟང་དགོན་ 612.5), and Cefang (侧仿, མགྲོན་མདའ་ 158 MW) . Reqin and Leyi have been mentioned recently so are under active consideration. Lixin is under preparation for construction.

In Yunnan Province, there are shown the following hydropower projects: Longpan (龙盘, ལོང་པན་ 4200 MW), Liangjiaren (两家人, ལྗང་ཡུལ་ 4000 MW), Liyuan (梨园, 2000 MW), Ahai (阿海, 2100 MW), Jinganqiao (金安, 465 MW), Longkaikou (龙开口, 1800 MW), and Ludila (鲁地拉, 2180 MW). Jinganqiao is operational. The others are under construction or, at minimum, under active consideration.
The 12th 5 Year Plan gives priority to the construction of Yebatan, Lawa, Suwalong, Changbo, Xulong, Liyuan, Longkaikou, and Ludila. It also indicates that Longpan is to be started. Longpan is the replacement project for Tiger Leaping Gorge project which was cancelled after local and international protest.

Table 3: Hydropower projects on the Drichu, the Yangtze River on the Tibetan Plateau

Hydropower projects on the Zachu, Mekong River on the Tibetan Plateau:
There are 24 HPPs in various stages of development on the upper reaches of the Mekong River on the Tibetan Plateau: five in Qinghai Province, 14 in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and five in Yunnan province.

North of the city of Chamdo, there are five projects: Dongzhong (冬中ཀར་མ་ 108 MW), Guoduo (果多ཚེར་དབད་ 165 MW), Xiangda (向达རྡོ་མདའ་ 66 MW), Ruyi (如意རུ་བཞི་ 114 MW), and Lichang (གཡོ་རུ་ཐང་ 72).  Guoduo is under construction by Huaneng Tibet Branch. The river was blocked on December 30, 2012. The Yuelong (YULONG?) Mine is involved in the development of Guoduo, which will be providing power to it. The other four have not gone beyond the planning stage.
In TAR, south of Chamdo on the Zachu mainstream there are eight projects being developed by Huaneng Lancang River Hydropower Co., Ltd. They are: Cege (侧格སེང་གེ་ 160 MW), Yuelong (约龙སྐྱོ་ནུབ་ 100 MW), Kagong (མཁར་སྒང་ 240 MW), Banda (班达ས་ནོར་ 1000 MW), Rumei (如美རོང་མེ་ 2400 MW), Bangduo (邦多མུ་མདོ་སྟེང་), Guxue (古学ཚེར་མདོ་ 2400 MW), and Baita (白塔ཚྭ་ཁ་ལ་). Rumei and Guxue are older projects and are the most important in this area.

Jinhe (སྐྱིད་ཐང་) is an operational HPP located in a nearby tributary, Zichu.

Jiaoba dam was mentioned in various articles as located on a tributary named Dengqu of the Zachu. We found a location corresponding with the description (see the Zachu Excel sheet) but we are not totally convinced, which is why we have left it off the map but mentioned it in the Excel file. 

In Qinghai, several small projects are under development: Angsai (རྣམ་སྲས་ 55 MW) , Charikou (查日扣ར་སྨེད་ 54 MW), and Dangqia (当卡ལྕོགས་ཡུལ་མདའ་ 12 MW).  The latter two are under construction. Chalongtong (查隆通ཚྭ་ལུང་ཐང་ 10.5 MW) and Longqingxia (གཞུང་སེ་མ་ 2.52 MW) are operational.

There are five Yunnan Zachu projects shown on the map: Gushui (古水, 1800 – 2600 mw),Wunonglong (乌弄龙, 990 MW), Lidi (里底, 420 MW), Touba (托巴, 1250 MW), and Huangdeng (黄登, 1900 MW). A fifth is not shown: Gounian (果念, 1200 MW) north of Wunonglong, which is presently cancelled.

The 12th Five Year Plan gives priority to the construction of Rumei, Guxue, Gushui, Wunonglong, Lidi, Tuoba, and Huangdeng, and indicates that Cege and Kagong projects are to be started.

Table 2: Hydropower projects on the Zachu, the Mekong River on the Tibetan Plateau

Hydropower projects on the Gyalmo Ngulchu, Salween River on the Tibetan Plateau:
The Tibetan Plateau blog has identified 28 HPP under various stages of development on the headwaters of the Salween River. Out of these 28 HPP, 22 HPP are located in the Tibet Autonomous Region (15 on the mainstream and seven on the tributary, Hodchu འོད་ཆུ་) and six HPP are located in the Yunnan Province. 26 of these HPP are current projects. Only two HPP (Chalong/སྟག་རིང་ and Jiquan/འབྲི་རུ་) are built and operational.

There are 13 current hydropower development projects, including Songta, on the mainstream of Gyalmo Ngulchu in TAR. Others in Yunnan, which were “cancelled” have come back to life. Datang International Power Generation Co., Ltd. is the lead company developing the Gyalmo Ngulchu in TAR. The 13 hydropower projects on the mainstream in TAR are, from upstream to downstream, Shading (沙丁, ས་སྟེང་ 210 MW), Reyu (热玉ར་ཡུལ་ 1050 MW), Luohe (洛河རྔུལ་ཤོད་ 600 MW), Xinrong (新荣ཤིང་རོང་ 420 MW), Tongka (同卡ཐང་དཀར་ n/a), Kaxi (卡西སྐྱ་རི་ 950 MW), Nujiangqiao (怒江གླིང་ཁ་ 800 MW), Yeba (叶巴སྟོབས་འབངས་ n/a), Lalong (ཀྲུང་གླི་ཁ་ n/a), Luola (罗拉ཞྭ་གླིང་ཁ་ 1050 MW), Angqu (昂曲སྐུ་མིག་ 1500 MW), Emi (俄米ཚ་བ་ལུང་ n/a) , and Songta (松塔བྲག་ངོས་ 4200 MW) .

On the Gyalmo Ngulchu’s tributary the Hodchu (འོད་ཆུ་) there are seven projects: Chengde (成德འཕྲེངདེ་), Zhayu (扎玉བྲག་ཡོལ་), Jideng (吉登གྱང་དམར་), Zhongbo (中波པ་དགེ་ 185 MW), Bitu (碧土བུལ་ཐོག་ 367 MW), Zhala (扎拉རྒྱ་ལམ་ 930 MW), and Hongdong (轰东ལྦ་ཕུག་ 249 MW). The first three upstream projects are not shown on the map due to lack of space. They will be built after the latter four.

The map also shows six Yunnan projects: Bingzhongluo (丙中洛ཡུམ་ལ་ཀོའོ་ 1600 MW), Maji (马吉མ་ཅིག་ 4200 MW), Lumadeng (鹿马登ལོ་མ་ཏིང་ 2000 MW), Fugong (, 400 MW), Bijiang (碧江, 1500 MW), and Yabiluo (亚碧罗, 1800 MW) . Maji and Yabiluo were cancelled, but are currently preparing for construction.

Table 1: Hydropower projects on Gyalmo Ngulchu, the Salween River on the Tibetan Plateau

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Map of Amdo Ngawa

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This is another mini post to share a map of Amdo Ngawa (Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture).

There is significant interest in Amdo Ngawa these days due to the spate of self-immolations that have occurred in this region.

This downloadable Tibetan-Chinese bilingual (200 dpi) map of Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture can be helpful in clarifying some of the confusions about the precise locations and names of these sites. It is one of the most detailed and accurate maps of the region published by the Chinese government.

Check out this recent ABC TV report to learn more about the situation on the ground. 

For a latest map of all the self-immolations in Tibet, see Rangzen Alliance website

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New Publication: Environmental Issues Facing Tibetan Pastoral Communities

Sunday, November 4, 2012

This is a mini post to share a fresh new publication: Environmental Issues Facing Tibetan Pastoral Communities. This issue (Vol. 18) of Asian Highland Perspectives just came online (November 2012).

Edited by CK Stuart and G Roche, this publication includes four articles, all written by Tibetan researchers:

1. The Ecological Migration Project: The Case of Rtswa chog, Qinghai Province, China. By Dbang 'dus sgrol ma (Independent Scholar)

2. China's Pastoral Development Policies and Tibetan Plateau Nomad Communities. By Dkon mchog dge legs (Independent Scholar)

3. The Impact of Grassland Privatization on the Grassland Ecosystem and Livestock Productivity in G.yon ri, Qinghai Province, China. By Mgon po tshe ring (Beijing University)

4. Plateau Pika Control on the Santu Alpine Grassland Community, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province, China. By Dpal ldan chos dbyings (Arizona State University)

Summary of the publication:
"Tibetan communities in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and G.yon ri Community in Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, PR China are studied in terms of China's pastoral development policies and their impact on local Tibetans."

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Managing Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra): new article

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Third Pole website recently published an article I wrote: A new course for the Brahmaputra, pairing it with another piece by Prof. Ben Crow and Prof. Nirvikar Singh of University of California at Santa Cruz.

These two articles present elaborations on previous discussions on managing the Brahmaputra. Earlier, Crow and Singh wrote a compelling piece calling for a new multilateral regulatory authority for the river. The article was published by the East Asia Forum. In response, I wrote that a common development plan for the river should be based on human development principles. My response piece was published in the Asia Pacific Memo.

In brief, Crow and Singh argue that all the countries sharing the Brahmaputra river must come together under a common framework for development. They suggest that the Mekong River Commission and the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development offer a good starting point for discussion on possible institutional design of a new regulatory authority.

My piece highlights the fact that India and China, the two main riparian countries, are simply not interested in a common development plan for the river because of strategic or political reasons. Any discussion of joint management of the river ought to be mindful of the fact that the region is heavily militarized to maintain "social order" and border security. These factors are far more important to China and India than a common development for the river, which is also why existing models of joint management of transboundary rivers, including the Mekong River Commission, will not work. One possible and desirable way of breaking the deadlock, I suggest, is to put the needs of people and ecosystems before national strategic goals. You can read the full article here.

Thanks for your interest.
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Best data on Tibet's mineral and petroleum deposits

Monday, July 23, 2012

We are pleased to release an updated map and a set of databases on Tibet’s mineral and petroleum deposits. This set of data is the most complete and accurate information that is publicly available on this topic.

In 2011, the Tibetan Plateau blog released a preliminary map and databases of Tibet’s minerals, salt lakes and petroleum deposits. Though incomplete, we felt we should release it then because it was more accurate and complete than other maps and lists available at that time.

Today, we are releasing the updated map above (which can also be downloaded here) and four accompanying databases. The four databases are Mineral, Salt Lake, Petroleum, and Unidentified Prospects and Mines. In the current version, we have included coal mines, oil-sand deposits, and several other mineral deposit sites that failed to make onto the preliminary map and databases.

The Minerals database contains a list of 192 mineral deposit/mining sites, out of which 147 have been mapped. The Salt Lakes database contains a list of 24 sites listed with all but two mapped. The Petroleum Deposits database contains 38 sites, out of which 35 have been mapped. Readers are encouraged to check these sites on Google Earth with the help of latitude-longitude coordinates provided in the databases.

Most of the prospects and mines listed in the database are verified with Google Earth, with an additional 58 identified visually in Google Earth but are not currently confidently linked to a documented deposit. Readers’ assistance in identifying these sites would be highly appreciated.

Information provided in the databases includes latitude-longitude coordinates, status of development, products, size of project/mine, validity, county, prefecture, and references for more information. All development projects are listed with their Pinyin names. The main cities and geographical features on the map are shown with Tibetan names.

The finalized databases have two format changes from the preliminary release. First, all references are embedded within the deposit lists. Second, ownership information has been removed to a separate database which may be cross-referenced by deposit name.

In addition to the Areas of Interest mentioned in the preliminary introduction to the dataset, the following should be noted. In northeast Qinghai (A-mdo), a number of coal mines are operating that are visible in Google Earth, are currently awaiting formal identification. Coal may also be being mined in the Tsaidam Basin. Also of significance are the oil-sands deposits currently under exploration in the Tsaidam Basin, Jhangthang and the Lunpola Basin (thang nyog thang) in TAR.

Exploration in the southwest edge of the Tsaidam Basin has resulted in the discovery of a number of significant deposits of base metals (Galinge, etc.). On the basin’s southeast edge two large gold deposits, Gouli and Guloulongwa (near Panchen Shingde), are being explored. In both cases, the deposits were located by the use of modern regional geological survey techniques.

The Songpan-Ganze Mobile Belt is an area of particular concern, with very little detailed data beyond the Dachang gold deposit documentation. In Qinghai, the belt passes through both the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve and the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve (SNNR). Hoh Xil is protected against resource extraction, yet is currently host to heavy equipment brought in by illegal miners, and exploration crews from the government geological survey.

The SNNR has already had its boundaries adjusted to accommodate mineral exploration and mining near Dachang. These territorial boundaries directly affect the controversial campaign of resettling Tibetan nomads. Tibetans who protest against or post information about these projects are often put behind bars, as demonstrated by Gangnyi, a Tibetan environmental photographer.

Mining is posed to become ever more important in Tibet, as written about by China Daily here and by Gabriel Lafitte in the China Dialogue site. The Tibetan Plateau blog has also written on this subject.

To learn more or to participate in political action, please visit Stop Mining Tibet and International Tibet Network websites.
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