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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

"Where Will The Next Drugchu Be?" By Woeser

August 26, 2010

High Peaks Pure Earth
August 24, 2010

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost
by Woeser that was originally written for Radio
Free Asia on August 10, 2010 in Beijing and
posted on her blog on August 14, 2010.

The article was written by Woeser just two days
after devastating mudslides hit the area in Amdo
known as Drugchu in Tibetan and Zhouqu in
Chinese. At the time, Woeser was also monitoring
Twitter reactions to the mudslides, a round-up
and summary of which can be found on Global Voices.

Whilst international media has been calling the
area by its Chinese name Zhouqu, Zhouqu is in
fact the Chinese rendering of the Tibetan 'brug
chu (Drugchu) meaning "Dragon River".

* * * * * *
Where will the next Drugchu be?
By Woeser

On August 8, just before dawn, the most agonising
landslides swept across Drugchu. Drugchu is
situated in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous
Prefecture in Gansu province and, in the past,
used to be an area inhabited purely by Tibetans.
Today, only about a quarter of its entire
population is Tibetan and it will become more and
more Han Chinese: Nevertheless, as a student from
Drugchu wrote in an essay: “Drugchu’s Tibetans
are distributed mainly over the upper reaches of
the Drugkar (Ch: Bailong) and Gongba (a tributary
to Drugkar) rivers … apart from two villages on
the east mountain, which are purely Han Chinese
and a few places, which are inhabited by Han and
Tibetans equally, most villages are occupied by
Tibetans … over two thirds of the county’s area
is in fact inhabited by Tibetans.”

Locally, information is being spread that the
landslides were not only a result of heavy
rainstorms but also of the destruction of the
ecosystem by human beings. Thanks to the
internet, much information regarding this can be
obtained. There is no need to “jump over the
Great Firewall”, all data, reports and surveys
provided by the authorities deliver sufficient
proof. The Drugchu County’s annals testify that
this place “has always been renowned for its
green hills and clear waters with the surging
Bailong River elegantly crossing the entire
county, graceful like a khata, lined with immense
forests and crossing over deep valleys.” However,
this picturesque scenery has been destroyed over
the past 50 years. In 2005, official media
reported that from August 1952, when the Drugchu
Forest Management Bureau was founded, until 1990,
the entire county’s forests were reduced by
100,000 cubic metres per year. Plants were also
severely damaged and the harm caused to the ecosystem went beyond any limits.

In fact, similar situations are very common
everywhere on the vast Tibetan land. For example,
the rich natural resources of Kandze (Ch: Ganzi)
County forest,  declared the number one out of
all forests in the whole of China, and which,
apart from some areas that were used by locals or
for temple buildings, has always been
self-sustaining and untouched. After 1950,
large-scale tree-felling activities started, some
organised, and some at random; it ended up in
indiscriminate and excessive deforestation to the
extent that, as it was the case in the Drango
(Ch: Luhuo) County, forests were completely
exhausted with only bald hillsides left and the
county’s Forest Management Bureau had to be
disbanded. The consequences of this excessive
felling of trees could be felt in the late 1990s
when a massive flood occurred in the upper
reaches of the Yangtze River. This made the
Chinese government pass a series of policies
according to the maxim: “Better late than never."

However, in recent years, under the "Great
Western Development Programme" and in line with
the call for "great economic development,"
governments in all regions have continued to
plunder natural resources; they say that it is in
order to stimulate the GDP, but in actual fact
this just serves as a cover for the authorities’
corrupt and greedy behaviour. A county such as
Drugchu, with just over only 130,000 inhabitants
and a few more than 20 villages, has endured 47
hydropower development programmes since 2003 and
is home to 15 hydropower stations with another 14
currently being installed; it is hard to imagine
at what range this many hydropower stations will
be erected in the turbulent waves of the river.
Furthermore, a fellow netizen, who has actually
been to Drugchu, highlighted the damage caused by
mining activities in the area and said that due
to many years of gold mining, the hillsides are
deforested leaving only grey and black soil, the
rivers and creeks are full of gold mining
equipment and in the river runs grey and black mud.

However, according to the Chinese authorities,
the landslides were a natural disaster; this is
the same reason that is always given in
situations of disaster, man-made calamities are
never admitted or recognised. Yet, there are a
few experts who concluded that the severe
landslides were in fact caused by excessive
deforestation as well as by the building of
large-scale irrigation works, increasing the
likelihood of severe ecological disasters. Also,
shortcomings in the urban planning of the county
capital contributed to the disaster. Yin Yueping,
a famous specialist for the prevention of
ecological disasters, already said, in light of
the heavy land- and mudslides that occurred in
Dartsedo (Ch: Kangding) two years ago, that “when
I went to the Kandze County, I asked the local
county head why he would install that many
hydropower stations as they would bring about
many problems, including the continuous
landslides in the county capital. He answered
that by erecting this many hydroelectric
stations, his yearly tax revenues amounted to 400
million...” The geologist, Yang Liankang bluntly
says, “China’s need for hydropower has not yet
exceeded the need for human life.”

I have never actually been to Drugchu myself but
I have seen surrounding areas similar in terms of
geography and climate and also, I have lived in
the Kham area for many years, so this naturally
makes me think that this time this engulfing
landslide rushing down like a giant dragon hit
Drugchu but where will it be next? An article
found through Twitter made me really feel
uncomfortable: “During the decades before the
1980s, almost the entire indigenous forests of
the Muli area were destroyed; in the following
years, gold diggers wreaked havoc like rats; now
in the current century, it is the installation of
hydropower stations. The formerly quiet, graceful
and peaceful Shambhala has turned into a noisy,
vulgar and savage place. The disaster in Drugchu
is the overture for Muli.” The names of many
familiar Tibetan places are one by one passing in
front of my eyes; I cannot help but shudder all over.

Beijing, August 10, 2010
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