Dharamshala - Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) India have launched a petition to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leaders of the other 9 downstream nations reliant on Tibetan sourced water to "stand up to China's blatant stealing of Tibet's rivers" and "establish water security in Asia."
The launch of the petition was part of a series of events organised in Dharamshala to celebrate the UN-declared World Water Day on March 22. Over 100 Tibetans, Indians and foreign supporters took part to shine a light on China's rampant ecological degradation of Tibetan rivers and its plateau.
"For centuries, the 10 downstream nations of Tibet have had access to the free flow of rivers from Tibet, bringing not only water for irrigation but rich nutrients for growing crops," said Dorji Kyi of the Tibetan Women's Association (TWA), one of the many speakers throughout the day. "However, over the last sixty years, China's policies in Tibet of excessive mining and damming and water-diversion projects have created a severe environmental crisis which will have negative impacts for all the downstream countries, including India," she added.
Events during the day included street theatre jointly organised by SFT India and TWA and a rally protesting China's environmental exploitation of Tibet. Protestors held placards reading "Tibet Dries, Asia Dies", "Be Strong India: Stand Up for Brahmaputra" and "Save Tibetan Rivers".
This was followed by a screening of Michael Buckley's documentary on Chinese mining in Tibet – Plundering Tibet – as well as a talk on the status of Tibet's fragile ecosystems and its repercussions for downstream nations by Tempa Gyaltsen of the Tibet Policy Institute, Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).
Jyotsna George – Campaigns Director for SFT India – also spoke about the situation of Tibetan rivers: "The Brahmaputra River originates from Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo, which is the lifeline of India and Bangladesh. Under Chinese occupation, the Yarlung Tsangpo has been dammed extensively, and there are plans to divert its water to mainland China. This will have devastating consequences for India and Bangladesh."
"As a concerned citizen of India, today on World Water Day, we are taking the opportunity to launch a petition to India and leaders of the 9 other downstream nations to come together and raise their voice to protect their lifeline: Tibet's rivers," she concluded.
As well the launch of SFT India's petition, with TWA they wrote Letters of Concern to the Office of Prime Minister Modi and the Embassies of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in Delhi in the run-up to World Water Day.
Similar protest events were organised in and around Delhi by Tibetan and Indian student activists.