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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."

Tibet's Rivers Strangled by Dams

March 23, 2010

By James Burke,  Epoch Times
Mar 21, 2010

BANGKOK-Canadian documentary maker Michael Buckley's undercover bid to
investigate the Tibet-China railway line was sidetracked when he discovered
Tibet's river systems were being strangled by large scale dam construction.

"I have been back and forth to Tibet a number of times and I never noticed
the dams were there-but they are hidden, they are down gorges that you
cannot see from the road," Buckley told press after the screening his
documentary film "Meltdown in Tibet," in Bangkok.

Having teamed up with a group of tourists kayaking through Tibetan rivers in
2005, Buckley came across newly constructed dams built to divert water and
hydro energy to China.

"So the only people [Westerners] who know about them are kayakers because
they have come across them-they go down the river and all of a sudden there
is a huge dam," he said.

"If you want to kill a river, building dams is the best way to do it," said

Among the rivers originating from Tibet that he investigated for his 40
minute documentary was the Salween River, which also flows through China,
Burma, and Thailand and empties into the Andaman Sea.

"The river is known as Gyalmo Ngulchu in Tibetan- roughly translating as
"The Queen of Silver Water," explained the film's narration.

"Despite widespread protest from within China and from neighboring countries
in Asia, Chinese engineers are forging ahead with plans for a cascade of 13
large dams on the Salween. Several dams are already under construction-one
the height of a 60-story building."

Buckley also investigated a river known to the Tibetans as the Dri Chu, or
Yak River, which becomes the Yangtze-one of China's most famous rivers-a
river which, along with the Yellow River, now fails to reach the sea.

"In the upper reaches of the Yangtze River-at the edges of the Tibetan
plateau-there are three more large dams under construction, and five more in
the planning stages," said his film.

Altogether his research found that 31 large dams are scheduled to be built
in the Three Parallel Rivers region, which includes the Upper Yangtze, Upper
Mekong, and Salween rivers.

Mao's Dictum

Buckley made the point that 60 percent of the Chinese communist leadership
(including current head Hu Jintao) have an engineering background and many
have vested interests in damming companies and the financing of
international damming projects.

(A 2006 photo of a Tibetan working with her yaks to plough a field. )The
Tibetan nomads would cultivate their autumn field area which sits at an
altitude of 3,800 meters. However the Chinese communist authorities ruling
Tibet have decreed that all Tibetan nomads be moved off the grasslands and
permanently resettled in relocation centers. Beijing has set a deadline of
2011 to have this done by. (China Photos/Getty Images)

While China is the world's most prolific dam builder, he said, the communist
authorities do very little in the way of environmental impact assessments in
their planning.

"In the 1950s, Mao's dictum was that humans can conquer nature and he did
some very bizarre projects, which tried to prove that you could take on
nature and win and in a lot of cases they lost," Buckley said.

"The Mao dictum is still around today-that the Chinese can take on nature
and win. That has been permeating the Chinese mentality for the last 50

China's own river system, he said, has been so devastated by uncontrolled
industrialization that it has resulted in 70 percent of the nation's water
supply being undrinkable and unable to support aquatic life.

"The rivers are dead. ... They are not trying to fix their rivers. Their
solutions are 'Let's take the water from Tibet'," he said. The diversion of
water from the Tibetan highlands to parts of northern China, Mr Buckley
said, is in planning stages and will be done via a vast network of concrete

"China's grand pipe-dream is to divert abundant water from the Tibetan
highlands to reach water-starved cities of the north and west of China,
which have around 300 million people," stated his film. "A diversion project
of this scale enters a realm beyond anything ever attempted in water

The electricity produced via the hydro dams in Tibet he added is not for
Tibetans but for Chinese industry.

The Dza Chu, or Mekong River, begins its life in the mountains of Tibet and
it becomes, as his film describes, "a roaring torrent as it swirls through
deep gorges, dropping an astonishing 4,500 meters [14,800 feet] in elevation
through Tibet and China, over a distance of 1,800 km [1,118 miles]-before
turning tamer in Laos."

Chinese damming efforts on the Upper Mekong, Buckley said have dramatically
altered the flow of the river affecting those nations further
downstream-Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Environmental groups outside of China have been vocal in blaming four
Chinese mega dams in the Upper Mekong for being the main reason why the
famous river's level has dropped to a 50-year low.

Beijing has soundly rejected the claims and blames drought for the water
level drop, and has denied outside parties from accessing its records on how
much water the damn holds.

Tibetan Nomads

While much of Buckley's documentary focuses on the affects of Chinese
dam-building, it was also concerned about the plight of the Tibetan nomads.

"I am doing this to counter the propaganda view that 'they [the Chinese
Communist Party[ are into conservation', which is ludicrous. They say they
are moving the nomads off the grasslands because they want to conserve the
grasslands and they are getting away with it," Buckley said.

A lot these areas, which were inhabited by Tibetan nomads and their herds of
yaks, have been declared national parks by Chinese authorities, he stated.

"It is just a cover. They don't want people living there. The nomads are
being taken off their land so as to make way for hydro projects and mining
ventures," he said.

Rivers, like other natural features such as lakes and mountains, are
considered sacred by the Tibetan people his documentary explained.

"Socialist paradise TV programs harp on how 'life of the nomads has been
greatly improved' and how the rail link will greatly benefit the lives of
Tibetans. [On TV] there were singing nomads coming out right, left, and
centre but the nomads are not singing, they are not happy, they are in
concrete [relocation] camps," he said.

"The nomads are the forgotten people of Tibet. No one is standing up for
them, they are being wiped out and they will just disappear and no one is
doing anything to stop that so it is a tragic situation."

Since filming in 2005, he said the situation inside Tibet has gotten worse.
He said that most of those involved in the film did want not their
identities revealed for fear of repercussions from Chinese authorities.

More information about the documentary is available at:
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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