Tibetan experts call on China stop Dam construction in Gege County

Tibetan Expert Panelists: Dr Lobsang Yangtso, Ngawang Lungtok, Dechen Palmo and Dr Tenzin Lhadon held a press conference, on March 14, 2024. (Photo:TPI)

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Dharamshala — On the occasion of the International Day of Action for Rivers, Tibetan experts issued a ten-point call to the Chinese government and the international community. They call on China to halt the construction of a dam in Dege county, eastern Tibet, which will not only harm the environment but also go against the wishes of the local population living around the Drichu river. They also underline the vital importance of Tibetan rivers for water security in Asia.

Tibet Policy Institute, Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) organised a panel discussion entitled "China's Dam in Derge(Gege): Examining the Adverse Social, Cultural, and Ecological Impact on Tibetans and Beyond", on March 14, 2024, in the Lhakpa Tsering Room of the DIIR, Gankyi, CTA, Dharamshala, HP, India, to mark the International Day of Action for Rivers and to highlight the ongoing forced relocation of Tibetans in Dege by the Chinese government for the construction of a large dam in the region.

Tibetan Expert Panelists including Dechen Palmo, Research Fellow, Tibet Policy Institute, CTA, Ngawang Lungtok, Researcher, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights & Democracy, Dr. Lobsang Yangtso, Senior Environmental Researcher, International Tibet Network and Dr. Tenzin Lhadon, Research Fellow, Tibet Policy Institute, CTA. They issued a '10-Point Calls from Tibetan Experts' as part of a panel discussion.

Tibetan Experts'10-Point Calls is as follow:

On the current Chinese Dam construction and forced displacement in Derge, Tibet
1. Cease Construction of Dams Without Local Consent: Considering the potential social, cultural, and ecological impacts of the ongoing dam construction in Derge, the Chinese government should halt the construction of all large hydropower dams which are against the need and wishes of the local communities. Additionally, any forced relocations should cease immediately, and Tibetans unjustly detained for expressing their concerns should be unconditionally released, with proper medical care provided to the injured.
2. Enhance Transparency in Eco-Environment Information: The Chinese government should prioritize transparency by disclosing more information about hydropower development plans in Tibet's major rivers, such as Drichu, Zachu, Machu, Gyalmo Ngulchu, Senge Tsangpo and Yarlung Tsangpo to ensure people's right to be informed.
3. Increase Public Involvement in Environmental Decision-making: There should be improved public participation in planning and decision-making processes, including thorough Environmental and Social Impact Assessments for all development projects in Tibet. Public involvement in evaluating plans with potential adverse environmental impacts should be allowed to safeguard environmental rights.
4. Conduct Seismic Risk Assessments: Given Tibet's high seismic activity, thorough seismic risk assessments are necessary to understand the potential risks posed by earthquakes to large dams and the millions of people living along Tibet's rivers, including people in Tibet, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
5. Advocate for Free, Prior, and Informed Consent: Governments, NGOs, and civil society groups should advocate for genuine adherence to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent principles, ensuring proper compensation, resettlement, and preservation of cultural heritage before initiating any projects requiring local consent, particularly concerning dam construction in Tibet.
6. Disengage from Businesses Affecting Tibetan Environment: The international community should cease business relations with Chinese companies involved in environmentally detrimental activities, such as mining and dam construction in Tibet, until there is demonstrable improvement in human rights conditions for Tibetans and that all social and environmental concerns are fully addressed.
7. Ratify Human Rights Treaties: China should promptly ratify crucial human rights treaties to protect local communities and indigenous inhabitants from coercion related to relocation or the destruction of culturally significant sites.
8. Recognize the Ecological Importance of Tibet: China and the global community should acknowledge the ecological significance of the Tibetan Plateau, recognizing its biodiversity, influence on regional weather patterns, and its role in ensuring food and water security in Asia.
9. Address Colonial Behaviors in Tibet: Recognize and rectify the impact of Chinese colonial policies in Tibet since 1959, including resource extraction, dam construction, and forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads. Adopt a rights-based approach to protect frontline communities and respect traditional knowledge.
10. Cease Criminalization of Environmental Defenders: The Chinese state should refrain from criminalizing Tibetan environmental defenders and release all individuals, such as A-nya Sengdra and Karma Samdrup, detained for peaceful activism against dam construction and forced relocation in Tibet.