Xi Jinping’s ecological conservation call devastating Tibetan nomadic life

A yak herd on a summer morning on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Milking yaks at sunrise, making clarified butter from the milk, and using stones to grind highland barley. (Photo courtesy: Nomad's Way)

(TibetanReview.net, Oct20’21) – The Chinese government has refused to renew its permits for the Tibetan nomads in Yulshul (Chinese: Yushu) Prefecture of Qinghai Province to graze their cattle on their traditional pastureland, citing its Grassland Preservation Policy, said the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Oct 19. It is alleged that the real purpose is to relocate the Tibetan nomads in urbans centres with no meaningful means of livelihood.

Communities of nomads in Qinghai, constituting much of Tibet’s traditional province of Amdo, have been losing their grazing land to the Chinese government one after another under various measures and for all sorts of purposes such as development, mining, poverty alleviation and grassland preservation. The Yulshul report is only the latest.

Under Chinese occupation rule, Tibetan nomads lost their centuries-old ownership of their grazing land but were given a 50-year permit to continue to graze their cattle on it. But now, the 50-year license has come up for the formality of a renewal but those in the prefecture’s Trindu (Chenduo) County have been told that their grazing land would revert to the government under its Grassland Preservation Policy.

“They are forcing Tibetans to sign these ownership documents which transfers proprietorship of these lands to the government,” the report quoted a local source as saying.

“The real purpose of confiscating the land is to force the Tibetan nomads to relocate to the city,” the source has said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The report said the Chinese government had previously revoked permits in other areas of Qinghai, citing the same reason.

Earlier, in Aug 2021, a Tibetan community leader and his nephew were arrested in Tridu County after they advised local Tibetans not to sign away their rights.


During his three-day inspection tour of Qinghai Province beginning Jun 7 this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the promotion of ecological conservation and high-quality development on the Tibetan Plateau. He made the same point during his visit to Tibet Autonomous Region in July.

China recently announced its first batch of five national parks and one of them is the Three-River-Source National Park (or the Sanjiangyuan National Park) in Qinghai province and the Tibet autonomous region. 

Yulshul lies in the centre of this park which is the source of three major rivers — the Yangtze River, the Yellow River and the Lancang River. The Park combines ecological protection with targeted poverty alleviation, according to a chinadaily.com.cn report Oct 20.

“Each household has an ecological administrator. The herders changed from being grassland users to ecological guardian. They not only protect their hometown, but also receive wages, which drive their enthusiasm for ecological protection,” Li Zhenyu, an investigator of Sanjiangyuan National Park Administration, was quoted as saying. The report said 17,211 herders were involved in this work.


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