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Tibet-water-village-2015London — The sole water supply of a village in east Tibet is being polluted by a road building project and authorities have refused to take action, says a recent report by Free Tibet.

The road-building project, which began in April in Rebkong county, involves digging up land at the site of Shadrang village's only source of drinking water. Locals say the water has become so dirty with mud and rubbish that it's not fit for humans or animals to drink.

Tibetans have appealed to local authorities, stating "We don't need alms, just clean water. We don't need grains, just clean water." The authorities have refused to take any action.

Much of the transport and infrastructure development in Tibet is implemented without any consultation with local people and appears to be aimed at facilitating the construction of mines and the extraction of minerals.

The Tibetan Plateau is rich in natural resources which China is exploiting with increasing intensity as part of its economic plan for developing Tibet. Resources in the region include fresh drinking water, rivers suitable for hydropower and large-scale mineral deposits such as gold, copper, silver, chromium and lithium, as well as fossil fuels including coal, oil and natural gas.

Free Tibet campaigns manager Alistair Currie said: "Infrastructure projects in Tibet are motivated by China's focus on resource exploitation, not the interests of Tibetans. Roads and highways facilitate the movement of equipment and workers in, and extracted resources out. In Shadrang, authorities are investing in building a road instead of addressing the fact that locals' only source of drinking water is a stream. That makes pretty clear what China's priorities are - not even pollution of that water supply applies the brakes to this project.

"Pollution, destruction of the environment and land-grabbing are part and parcel of the economic exploitation of Tibet, and of little concern to China's government. This is a deep source of grievance to Tibetans and increasingly a flashpoint for protest."

Resource exploitation has led to environmental concerns becoming the most common triggers for Tibetan protest in recent years. Mining is the most common trigger for demonstrations, with damming and river pollution also provoking opposition.

Protests include individual acts, creative forms such as the dumping of dead fish at the offices of local authorities in 2013, and mass protests involving hundreds or thousands of people. Many protests have been met with significant violence.

In Dzatoe County in August 2013, a protest was dispersed with beatings, tear gas and the firing of shots. In Dechen County in July 2014, protesters were severely beaten by police and told by the head of the mining operation that they had "every right" to kill them if they protested again.

A report by Tibet Watch highlights the spiritual connection Tibetan people have to their land. Certain mountains and lakes are believed to be the physical home of Buddhist deities and are considered sacred. Tibetans also see the remote mountains and wilderness as places for retreat and meditation.

When interviewed about the connection between the people and the land, one Tibetan told Tibet Watch: "Tibetans do not learn the value of the earth through science but through our religion and the way our ancestors protected our land over thousands of years. They saved the land for the next generation to enjoy as pure land, the beauty of nature and to have a clean and peaceful environment to live in.

"Therefore destruction of the land, the mining of sacred mountains and holy lakes, are more than pollution and destruction of the environment. It is a violation of our tradition, religious beliefs and the destruction of our forefathers' legacy."