Ancient Tibetan irrigation site included in a world heritage list

Sakya Water Storage Irrigation System in Shigatse City, Tibet. (Photo courtesy: Xinhua)

(, Nov28’21) – The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) has on Nov 26 recognized an ancient Tibetan irrigation site as a World Heritage Irrigation Structure (WHIS), with two Chinese ones, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency Nov 27.

But as with other historical sites in occupied Tibet included in international heritage lists, the Sakya Water Storage Irrigation System has also been listed as an ancient Chinese irrigation site.

The above three additions have brought to 26 the total number of “Chinese irrigation projects” on the WHIS list, the report said, citing China’s Ministry of Water Resources.

The report said the Sakya Water Storage Irrigation System in the Tibet autonomous region had an average altitude of 4,000 meters, the highest among all the WHIS sites.

For centuries, the project has helped locals make full and effective use of their limited water resources. At present, there are more than 400 pools still irrigating farmlands, benefiting approximately 10 percent of the population in the autonomous region, the report said.

China points to such listings as “proof” of its protection of Tibetan culture and heritage while carrying out policies designed to marginalise the Tibetan people’s current ethnic identity in terms of their language, religion and culture and to undermine their institutions under an assimilative campaign of Sinicization.


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