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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."

DAMMING TIBET TO SAVE CHINA: HYDROPOWER’S COMING GOLDEN DECADE

January 24, 2011

Gabriel Lafitte, January 2011

China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, for 2011 through 2015, is about to become
public.

The ongoing massive infrastructure investments typical of a centrally
planned economy will persist, and perhaps even accelerate, as China
continues to finance its infrastructure construction by borrowing from
future generations. China’s growth remains state-driven, and tightly
focused on creating the necessary preconditions for the elite to get
even richer, with the state picking up the tab for putting in place the
expressways, railways, power stations,cities and ports needed to enable
profitable businesses to follow.

While the overall amount to be spent on infrastructure construction
contracts to be won by the well-connected may be as big, or bigger, than
in the previous central plan, the focus will shift, from the coast to
the inland, and from encouraging energy intensive heavy industries to
encouraging heavy industries whose intensive energy use is supplied
partly by “green” sources of power.

High on the list of construction programs, designed to distract
attention from the massive program of building more coal fired power
stations, is the increased use of nuclear power, solar power, wind power
and hydropower. In order to maximise the impression that China is the
world’s leader in renewable energy, the Party’s 12th Plan will result in
maximum publicity presenting China as the global capital of hydropower
and green energy. Although the 12th Plan will not be formally released
until the 2011 session of the National People’s Congress in March 2011,
already key media are publishing the core targets, and they are indeed
ambitious, though hardly on the scale of the intensifying use of Chinese
and imported coal, and the weekly commissioning of new coal fired power
stations. China’s coal consumption is already around three thousand
million tons and, even if every planned hydro dam and nuclear power
station is built, will still rise to 3.8 billion tons as soon as 2015.

Since a high proportion of the new hydro dams are in Tibet, or on the
edges of the Tibetan Plateau, how will China’s reinvigorated hydraulic
economy impact on Tibet?

A GOLDEN DECADE FOR THE RED ENGINEERS

What is also becoming clear is that the Party leaders intend to sweep
aside the growing strength of the environment movement in China, which
in recent years grew in its ability to persuade Beijing to override
local boosters of dams that would inundate areas of exceptional beauty
or cultural significance. Not only is the party-state signalling its
determination to vanquish the environment movement, but also the social
unrest that frequently erupts when intensively farmed valleys are
commandeered for inundation behind a dam wall, with farmers, sometimes
hundreds of thousands of them, offered inadequate land and compensation
in a country with no unused arable land left. The coming two Five-Year
Plans taking China to 2020 are to be a “golden decade” for engineers.
The rise and rise of the red engineers, who dominate the Politburo of
the Communist Party to a remarkable degree, is not yet over, even if a
new generation takes over in 2012.

Shanghai Daily reported on 6 January 2011: “WITH 2020 clean-energy
targets to meet, China is set to accelerate the building of
hydroelectric dams, reversing a long halt caused by environmental
concerns and the social upheaval of relocating people living in the
shadow of dam sites. The trend will create a "golden decade" for the
nation's hydropower sector, analysts say, as high fuel prices continue
to squeeze margins of coal-fired power plants that comprise the bulk of
China's electricity-generating capacity. Renewable energy sources like
solar power have been slow to come on line on a big scale because of
high costs and grid-configuration problems.

“The Chinese government now aims to have 430 gigawatts of -hydropower
capacity by 2020, increasing its earlier target of 380GW, the China
Securities Journal reported last month. ‘That means each year, the
equivalent of one new Three Gorges Dam will be added in China over the
next decade,’ said Shao Minghui, an analyst at China Post Securities,
using the 2020 target of 380GW as a base. ‘The market is really
sizable.’ The 18.2GW Three Gorges Dam, which spans the Yangtze River, is
the world's largest.”

Shanghai will be a major beneficiary of this renewed investment in
diversified energy sourcing. Not only will the industrial belts
surrounding Shanghai be major users of hydropower transmitted from afar,
there will be less reliance on coal hauled from Inner Mongolia and
elsewhere in northern China, and fewer bottlenecks on a rail freight
system overloaded with coal shipments. Shanghai will proclaim its green
credentials as a city that directly emits less greenhouse gases, by
sourcing its hydropower from as far away as the fringes of Tibet, where
arrays of dams will cascade down the mountain rivers that pour from the
Tibetan Plateau.

The Tibetan Plateau is increasingly divided geographically between two
different purposes, in the minds of China’s planners. One land use,
covering big areas on the map, is conservation and watershed protection
for China’s downstream users, preserving landscapes often called
pristine and unspoiled by Chinese economic and tourism industry
planners. The other land use, concentrated narrowly in corridors of
development, is concentrated urbanisation, industrialisation, minerals
extraction and processing, and all the transport corridors that connect
these zones of high productivity, high capital investment, and high
immigrant population.

While these two kinds of land use pull in opposite directions, they
could live side by side, if uneasily. But China has further decided that
the nomads are to be sedentarised, emptying the land, leaving it
officially designated only for conservation and watershed protection,
with traditional pastoral use excluded. The displaced nomads are now
becoming an urban fringe, dumped into high density concrete block
settlements, with no skills, no livelihoods and few of the inhibitions
essential to living in the urban crowd.

The land of Tibet is being pushed to contradictory extremes, with huge
emptied areas badged to materialiseChina’s green credentials, while the
engineering corridors and urban hubs monopolise almost all available
investment. The existing corridors of highways, railways, optical fibre
cables and oil pipelines across Tibet are to be joined by a new
corridor, of hydro dams and high voltage power lines. The dams sometimes
are to be in a cascade series, on Tibetan rivers, establishing the river
system of Tibet, source of most of Asia’s great rivers, as a newly
industrialised corridor comparable to the highways and railway. While
there is little likelihood these mountain rivers will, in Tibet, be
navigable, they can be made to generate enough electricity to see power
pylons marching across Tibet, both to the new boom cities in Tibet, and
far away to the east, to China’s major industrial cities.

The power of the hydropower engineers, far from waning as some have
supposed, is reaching its peak. But the targets are, by any standard,
ambitious; and will require massive injections of capital raised by
issuing bonds to be repaid by future generations. Rather than
encouraging domestic consumption, which would enable China’s factory
workers to buy what they make, investment capital will, as usual, be
primarily directed at massive projects that retiring leaders like to
associate themselves with as their lasting fame.

But is it actually possible to add a Three Gorges dam once a year, for a
decade? The reality is that Three Gorges, athwart China’s greatest
river, the Yangtze, is unique, the world’s biggest hydro dam for good
reason. There aren’t many rivers where a single dam of such
wonder-of-the-world size could be contemplated. Instead, China will
build an enormous number of smaller dams, and maps charting known sites
on the Tibetan Plateau are now readily available online:
http://tibetanplateau.blogspot.com/search?q=dams&updated-max=2010-01-21T13:06:00-08:00&max-results=20


DWARFING THE THREE GORGES

But there is one river, or to be more exact one stretch of a specific
river, in a far corner of China, that has the potential to be another
three gorges, in fact to generate double or even triple the power
generated by the Three Gorges colossus. This is the great river of
southern Tibet, the Yarlung Tsangpo, in its gorge in eastern Tibet,
pinned beneath towering ranges on all sides, as it curves in a great
bend before plunging south into northeast India and Bangladesh, known
better to the world as the Brahmaputra. The great bend of the Yarlung
Tsangpo is so remote and inaccessible it was charted only in the 1990s.
On paper, its potential for generating hydropower is extraordinary. Over
a 300 km stretch, it falls from 3000 meters to just over 500 meters at
the point it leaves Tibet. The gorge it has cut through the rising
Himalayas is itself a channel for laden monsoon clouds to penetrate
Tibet more than anywhere else on the plateau, resulting in heavy
rainfall. Hemmed in by glacial peaks above 5000 meters, with the highest
mountain of eastern Tibet, Namche Barwa, at 7760 meters, the whole area
not only attracts moist monsoon clouds, but captures almost all of them
for the river. In the 300 kms of the great bend, the Yarlung Tsangpo’s
flow more than doubles. China’s hydro engineers calculate that two great
hydro projects could be built, Metok (in Chinese Motuo), with 38,000
megawatt generating capacity, more than double Three Gorges 18,600MW;
and Daduo, which could generate even more, 43,800 MW. Either of these
projects would add more to China’s electricity supply than all the dams
planned for other Tibetan rivers put together.

The idea is quite simple. Both involve diverting water from the river
through a man-made short-cut that avoids much of the great bend, sending
huge volumes of water straight across from intercept points where the
river is just below 3000 meters, rushing down to rejoin the river on the
far side of the bend, where it is only at 850 meters (Metok/Motuo) or
560 meters, at Daduo, an even greater drop. This makes maximum use of a
drop of more than 2000 meters -2 kilometres- to drive enormous turbines
and produce electricity on a scale that dwarfs even the Three Gorges.
Not only have Chinese hydro engineers sketched such plans, they have
published proposed routes for the ultra high voltage cables that would
then step across the deep gorges of nearby rivers in order to reach the
core cities of western China, Chongqing and Chengdu. China’s Xinhua
newsagency published a map in 2003 showing power lines heading east to
the Sichuan basin.

Source: Scientific Atlas of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, 1990, map 80

Such projects would forever be linked to their progenitors, the
engineers who dominate the CCP Politburo Standing Committee, as Three
Gorges is a lasting monument to its patron Li Peng, otherwise known as
the driver of the Tiananmen massacre. Either of these great Yarlung
Tsangpo dams would also showcase the technical mastery of Chinese
engineers, whose worldwide work building railways, oil pipelines and
refineries in Africa, or mines in Latin America, extend China’s global
reach. Three Gorges relied on imported turbines from Siemens in Germany
as the high precision heart of making electricity from water; but a new
generation of turbines can now be made in China, after western
manufacturers were induced to transfer their intellectual property to
Chinese partners.



Source: Scientific Atlas of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Geographic Publishing
House 1990, map 2

China’s mapping of routes for these hyper mega dams makes full use of
existing river valleys feeding into the Yarlung Tsangpo gorge on the
downstream side. Rather than having to channel diverted water all the
way along a 50km shortcut, the plan is to utilise as much as possible
the existing fall of water as it rushes down to join the Yarlung Tsangpo
not far from where it reaches India’s Arunachal Pradesh state, a state
still contested by China, which loses no opportunity to remind India
that China’s armed forces occupied Arunachal in 1962.

But there are enormous obstacles facing the prospect of ever building
these dams. Between the sides of the great bend is a major mountain
range, peaking at 7760m, the highest mountain anywhere in eastern Tibet
or western China. The spine of mountain ridges is mostly above 5000m, a
full 2kms above the river bed; and it is underlain by a deep fault line,
in a region subjected to enormous mountain building pressures and big
earthquakes as pressures build and seek sudden release. The only way
through would be to tunnel massive shafts on a down slope through the
fault line, at a depth of 2kms or more, deep enough to be so naturally
hot that water entering at close to freezing point might heat by as much
as 50 degrees. No one really knows. So far it is all on paper, with
little preliminary work done to test even the technical feasibility, let
alone the financial cost/benefit case. Continuous tunnels would need to
be up to 30kms long. In order to generate enough power, many parallel
tunnels, each probably eight meters wide, would be needed. In addition,
on a river that rages in the summer monsoon and slows greatly in winter,
dams to regulate flow would be needed across the river. All this in an
area so steep, jungled and inaccessible that the 1990s saw a
Sino-American race to be first to actually traverse the full length. One
result was a number of books, Ian Baker’s The Heart of the World: A
Journey to Tibet's Lost Paradise the best of them.

Source: Scientific Atlas of Qinghai Tibet Plateau 1990, map 138

The great bend occurs for a reason. This is the area of maximum thrust
of the Indian subcontinent into the heart of Eurasia. What forces the
river northeast, then east, and then southwest is a series of faults
deep in the mantle of the planet, which are at right angles to each
other. Across most of Tibet the fault lines run roughly parallel,
trending from northwest towards the southeast, and it is these which
force the Yarlung Tsangpo to turn south towards India and Bangladesh.
But before reaching the walls of rock pushed up along these faults, the
river must first find a path between other fault lines that are oriented
southwest to northeast, resulting in parallel ranges trending the same
way, that the river must squeeze between. This is a highly active
seismic area, with deep-seated forces pushing in differing directions,
not a secure environment for deep drilling on a massive scale. The risks
are enormous.

Construction of the Three Gorges dam occurred in a highly populated
area, with full urban services nearby, in fact the population that had
to be removed as the dam filled was over one million people. From the
perspective of the logistics of infrastructure construction the location
was challenging, but workable, with ready access for the machinery
needed to shift rock, blast and built the massive reinforced concrete
walls. Everything needed, even huge and awkward items such as turbines,
could be transported readily to the site, not least by large ships
steaming upriver from Shanghai and China’s most industrialised belt.

By comparison, Metok county is the very last of China’s 2000 counties to
be accessible by any road at all. It was only in December 2010 that
Chinese engineers blasted the last rocks separating tunnels coming from
both ends of a 3.3km shaft which is to enable road traffic from Pome (in
Chinese Bomi) county to get through to Metok. Then road making machinery
will be able to enter, and construct a road to Metok town, the county
capital on the Yarlung Tsangpo. The tunnel is not big enough to handle
huge items such as hydropower turbines, nor can they be brought up a
raging mountain river via Bangladesh and India. The news of the road
tunnel connection was reported in Indian media as further evidence of
China’s threat to Indian rivers. The last thing India would ever do is
to facilitate the portage of heavy equipment enabling China to dam the
Tibetan river relied upon by north-eastern India.

Metok is also the last of China’s 2000 counties to have any Chinese, Han
Chinese, living there. The official 2000 Census lists Metok (Motuo)
uniquely as having no Han at all, and only a small Tibetan population of
1300. Most of the people are neither Han nor Tibetan but are officially
classified as Lhoba (Luoba in Chinese), an ethnicity that counts as one
of China’s officially recognised 56 ethnicities constituting China. In
Metok and nearby counties there are 2500 Lhoba, and about 4000 over the
border in northeastern India, where they are more often known as Mishmi
and Tani. They were classified by Chinese ethnographers as living in the
evolutionary stage of “primitive communism”, an egalitarian tribalism
which meant they were spared the compulsory class warfare China forced
on Tibet. In China’s rigid social evolutionary ladder, which all people
must pas through, primitive communism is the lowest of all, prior to the
feudal slave owning stage of history which is where Chinese
investigators fixed the Tibetans, necessitating compulsory struggle
sessions in which educated Tibetans were denounced and liquidated.

The Lhoba were spared, partly because the official Chinese ethnologists
who decided how everyone was classified, resisted the pressure on them
to radically simplify reality and lump many peoples together, for the
sake of administrative utility. Elsewhere, people’s own preferred
identities were ignored, but the Lhoba got to be one of only 56 minority
nationalities, down from over 400 in the early 1950s. Rather than
colonising Metok county with Chinese cadres, Lhoba children were taken
to schools in China’s interior to be taught how to be Chinese citizens,
and become the cadres transmitting Beijing’s policies to these rugged
borderland gorges.

The Lhoba have been further beyond the reach of the Chinese party-state
than any minority, living in small villages close to raging rivers,
hunting, trapping and trading with Tibetan farmers. Should the world’s
biggest hydro dams twice or thrice the power of Three Gorges, come to
Lhoba land, the Lhoba will have no way of even expressing their true
feelings to the world.

Undeterred by the multiple impracticalities of this paper dream of a
double sized Three Gorges on the Yarlung Tsangpo, Chinese armchair
engineers have fancifully proposed the use of small nuclear explosions
to blast the necessary tunnels. This wildly improbable fantasy has been
seized upon by Indian hawks who enjoy ratcheting up Indian fears of
China, and their Tibetan friends who take all opportunity to portray all
Chinese speculation as fact, all Chinese plans as malevolent. Perhaps
the most popular retelling of the nuclearisation of the Yarlung Tsangpo
is in the film Meltdown in Tibet, by Canadian film maker Michael
Buckley. No evidence is presented to back the assertion that these dams
are to be built, and nuclear explosions are a key construction method.
The fashion for nuclear explosions as a tool of civil engineering was
popular in many countries, which faded as reality dawned that blasting
is no substitute for digging and tunnelling. In Australia in the 1960s
mining entrepreneurs with a penchant for simple solutions to complex
problems proposed nuclear blasting of canals to take seawater to the dry
salt lake beds of the inland, or to blast a canal from monsoon northwest
Australia to the parched inland rangelands of West Australia a thousand
or more kilometres south. Such ideas were quietly dismissed, as not
worth a second look. In China such enthusiasms still surface. In 1996
Scientific American reported a macro-engineering plan involving peaceful
nuclear explosions bruited during the December 1995 Beijing meeting of
the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics, to excavate a 20 km long
canal through an intervening mountain range north of the Yarlung Tsangpo
in order to convey irrigation-quality water on its way far to China’s
arid north. Somehow a number of reports have muddled two Chinese plans
which both begin on the Yarlung Tsangpo. One is an extraordinarily
ambitious plan, of which nothing has been heard for years, to divert
water far to the north, all the way to China’s over-used Yellow River,
to replenish its depleted flow. The nuclear option was mentioned as a
way of dealing with intervening mountain ranges which stand in the way.
Some reports, based on hazy knowledge of Tibetan geography, assume
nuclear explosions deep underground, are also proposed, not for blasting
a canal but tunnels to link the Yarlung Tsangpo with itself further
downstream across the sides of the great bend. While both of these
massive projects based on extracting water and/or electricity from the
Yarlung Tsangpo do have their supporters, they remain too big even for
the red engineers in charge of today’s China, with no sign for several
years that either plan is under serious consideration.

THE GOLDEN DECADE OF DAMMING BEGINS

Perhaps these mega dams will be built one day, given that China’s modern
hydraulic economy has, as a matter of revolutionary pride, built more
dams than anywhere on earth in the past 50 years, displacing as many as
ten million farmers in the way of progress. But that day is not soon.
The Yarlung Tsangpo gorge does not go in a decade from being a heroic
discovery of Chinese (or American) masculinity, to being an industrial
worksite for a statist development project bigger even than Three Gorges.

Focussing on the impossibly over scale megaprojects distracts attention
from the large number of smaller dams that are planned for Tibet. But
even these are caught up in the chronic tension and suspicion in India
about China’s intentions. The plan for a dam across the Yarlung Tsangpo,
much upstream from the great bend, capable of generating electricity for
nearby Tsethang town and the city of Lhasa, has been met in India with
claims of Chinese malevolence. Supporters of India’s military
establishment have even suggested that, in the event of hostilities,
China could use the dam under construction at Zangmu as a weapon,
opening the floodgates to inundate Indian towns downstream. The Zangmu
dam will take a substantial portion of 12th Five-Year Plan funding, but
it is not in any way designed as a water diversion dam, only as a
generator of electricity, after which the water will be returned to the
river. This does not reassure Indian critics, who depict the dam as
massive, either depriving India of much needed water, or flooding it, or
both.

Many dams will be built, and this is of great concern to the many
southeast Asian downstream users of the waters of the Mekong, as well as
Tibetan communities distressed at their powerlessness to in any way
speak up for themselves or those downriver. The painstaking research
pieced together by http://tibetanplateau.blogspot.com shows dozens of
hydro dams under active consideration, or already under construction,
around the eastern rim of the Tibetan Plateau, and deep in Tibet, where
dams are the primary source of electricity to power China’s urbanisation
strategy for Tibet. Some are modest in scale, yet still raise issues of
displacement of farmers, interruption of fish migrations, and risks of
siltation as rivers swell in monsoon months and erode their course, then
dump their load when water is slowed by a dam. Many concerns are raised
by these dams, especially the bigger ones on the faster flowing mountain
rivers of Tibet as they begin their descent from the Plateau.

But no debate is possible in Tibet. All contributions from Tibetan civil
society are quickly criminalised, declared to be an illegal discourse,
part of the “splittist” plot to destroy China’s unity and stability.
Although the wider world may soon know which of the many proposed hydro
dams in Tibet are to be constructed as part of the 12th Five-Year Plan,
the Tibetan villagers most affected are neither told what to expect, nor
given any public space to participate in decision making. While there is
limited freedom for Chinese environmental NGOs to speak up for
protection of Tibet, Tibetans themselves must remain silent.

International organisations are sometimes caught up in this untenable
situation. UNESCO was persuaded to declare the parallel gorges of three
great rivers leaving Tibet to be the Three Parallel Rivers World
Heritage UNESCO protected area, but UNESCO allowed China to exempt from
the protected area boundaries the actual rivers, leaving China free to
build dams, while proclaiming the gorges rising above the river beds to
be a global tourist heritage wonder protected by UNESCO listing.

China is now determined to roll back the advances in recent years of the
environmental movement, in order to ensure there are no obstacles to the
coming “golden decade” of dam building. Popular resistance to being
displaced by development, and environmental objections are to be swept
aside, as dozens of new dams are constructed all along the flanks of the
Tibetan Plateau, proclaiming China’s credentials as a “green energy”
power. China’s next Party Secretary Li Keqiang says of the 12th
Five-Year Plan: “In the coming five years, China will vigorously develop
the green economy and low-carbon technologies to bring down
significantly energy consumption and CO2 emission per unit of GDP.”
(Financial Times 10 January 2011) This is a carefully crafted formula to
raise energy efficiency and reduce energy intensity while accelerating
total energy use as production continues to increase as fast as China
can manage. What this formula masks is that coal use in China, dug
domestically and increasingly also imported, is set to rise and rise
over the 12th Five-Year Plan. Between 2007 and 2035 China’s use of coal
to generate electricity will triple, even if China fulfils all its
“green” plans for hydropower, wind power, solar power and nuclear power
installation.

Source: International Energy Outlook 2010, International Energy Agency

Much of the new 12th Plan dams will be in the heartland of Tibet, to
power the copper smelters, ore concentrators, rock crushers, urban
infrastructure and glossy tourist hotels of central Tibet, the essential
power supply enabling the 12th Plan’s “leaps-and-bounds” development of
Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to be achieved. Even the great bend of the
Yarlung Tsangpo and the several hydro dams well upstream of the great
bend are all in TAR, where Tibetans are especially disempowered, under
constant surveillance and suspicion of harbouring splittist tendencies
the moment they speak up against dams or other environmental costs Tibet
must pay. The harsh prison sentence given in 2010 to Karma Samdrup, a
Tibetan businessman, environmentalist and community leader, indicates
the price of speaking that questions Chinese governmental practice in
Tibet.

GREEN TIBET, BROWN TIBET

Tibet has been offered to the world as a sacrifice for China’s greater
good before. Tibetan nomads have been removed from their pasture lands,
forced to lead idle lives in concrete block settlements, in order to
grow more grass for protection of China’s upper watersheds in Tibet.
These hundreds of thousands of “ecological migrants” are officially
voluntary patriots sacrificing their lands and livelihoods for the
greater good of China’s downstream. The creation of “paper park”
protected areas covering large portions of Tibet’s alpine deserts has
been engineered as a zero/sum game pitting wildlife conservation against
the presence and life of nomads. Similarly, other official Chinese
schemes for reforestation, converting sloping land to ecological
plantations, “grain-to-green” and other slogan-led programs with
international backing, invariably exclude Tibetan farmers and nomads
from pursuing their livelihoods while also contributing to the
conservation effort. Instead of enlisting local Tibetan communities as
participants essential to the success of reforestation, degrading
grassland rehabilitation and de-desertification, Tibetans are fenced
out, declared redundant and are resettled elsewhere.

China makes much of its contribution to global campaigns to conserve
biodiversity, mitigate climate change, step up investment in green
energy, protect watersheds and reduce energy intensity and each time it
is the Tibetan Plateau that is further disempowered, and divided into
zones of exclusion, adjacent to zones of intensive investment in dams,
highways, railways, mines and urban boom centres, all of which attract
immigrants, adding to population pressure on a plateau the size of
western Europe that has never sustained a human population of more than
six million. China’s overall pattern of intervention in Tibet divides
the plateau between areas developed intensively for production, and
large areas mapped out of bounds for Tibetan use in the name of
environmental issues. Excluded from the land use conversion zones and
outnumbered in the urban production zones and dam construction sites,
Tibetans increasingly have nowhere to live Tibetan lives, pursuing
Tibetan livelihoods making extensive, mobile use of the whole plateau
below the snow line of the Land of Snows.

China’s various slogan-driven “green” mass campaigns may each make sense
taken in isolation, but what they add up to is an incoherent, deeply
contradictory vision of Tibet as China’s salvation, providing China all
at once with abundant clean water, minerals and hydropower, a mass
tourism boom and green credentials globally.The new Tibet of the 12th
Five-Year Plan is a patchwork landscape of intensive, exclusionary
conservation; and intensive productivist development. China wants Tibet
to be both pristine and unspoiled; and a productive supplier of
hydropower, oil, gas and minerals to distant Chinese manufacturers and
cities. It is this dual vision that has portioned Tibet into
productivist brownand post-productivist green zones, chopping up a land
which required no such interventions by state power until Chinese
governmentality reached far into the rangelands in the 1950s, setting
off a chain of policy failures that the 12th Plan golden decade of dam
building greenwash is meant to correct.

Sweeping aside those displaced by hydro dam development, and dismissing
the concerns of environmentalist objections to dams may not be as easy
as the announcements in China’s official media suggest. Social unrest is
growing, and rural Chinese are better aware of their legal rights. They
are less willing to accept eviction from their farms, to make way for
dams, when compensation for lost livelihoods and promises of better
substitute land and higher incomes than ever prove yet again to be
meaningless in practice. The rise of popular blogs exposing official
expropriations of land is one sign of popular resistance among those
most immediately displaced. But these days the environment movement in
China attracts well-connected city dwellers, the sort of Chinese
citizens who read the English-language Shanghai Daily and are not at all
pleased to be informed that the state is about to end the “long halt
caused by environmental concerns and the social upheaval of relocating
people living in the shadow of dam sites.”

In Tibet protests are declared splittist, and are crushed. Who are the
people most directly affected by the new dams on the Tibetan Plateau?
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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