Target: Chen Jining, China’s Minister of the Environment
Goal: Prevent damming of Tibet’s rivers to protect the health of ecosystems and the livelihood of local peoples.
China’s planned damming of two of Tibet’s major rivers would destroy the rich river ecosystems and impact both local people and downstream nations. A total of five dams are planned for the Salween (Nujiang) River, with one more dam planned for the Brahmaputra River, which already has one dam. Most of the waterways in mainland China already have hydropower projects, so China is now looking to Tibet, where the rivers at the edge of the plateau hold the highest hydropower potential in the world. Halt construction of these dams on Tibet’s powerful rivers.
On top of the ecological damage these dams would do, China would divert water from Tibet’s rivers, many of which cross national boundaries and span across Asia, to fuel mining, factories, and other industries, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Aside from blocking fish migration, these projects would harm ecosystems downstream that depend on the nutrient-rich silt the rivers bring for survival. Without this silt, the delta would also lose a crucial buffer against rising sea levels. On a human level, such extensive diversions would hurt downstream communities that depend on the rivers’ waters to irrigate water-intensive crops like rice and wheat.
Unfortunately, China’s leadership falls short of inspiring trust. China has denied that dam construction has been underway, only admitting to starting construction on the Brahmaputra River in 2010–after a satellite picture depicted evidence of dam construction. Another issue is that policy to regulate the construction is lacking. Only in 2014 did the United Nations set non-binding guidelines for transboundary watersharing. However, like most nations of South Asia, China is not a signatory.
Worst of all, protests by local Tibetans have been ignored or even broken up by violence. Forced to move to degraded land, they often live in poverty or have to relocate again.
Please sign the petition below and help save these river ecosystems and the Tibetan people who call them home.
Dear Minister Chen,
I am writing in regards to China’s planned construction of dams on the Salween (Nujiang) and Brahmaputra Rivers in Tibet. I recognize that these dams would bring major energy to the nation. However, going through with these plans would also deprive Tibetans of their land–Tibetans whose protests against hydropower projects have unfortunately been ignored or violently broken up. In China itself, since the 1950s, hydropower projects have forced twenty million people to migrate. Please do not inflict this same fate on Tibetans and condemn them to a life of poverty and constant displacement.
I ask you to consider investing in alternative renewable energy sources. China has made significant investments in solar and wind energy. By directing these efforts toward Tibet, the river ecosystems and the people who call them home could be saved, and both China and Tibet could then benefit. Please use your leadership to show that China’s environmental policy values human beings and our planet over profit.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Takeaway via Wikimedia Commons