Villagers Block Work on Dam

A Chinese mining company in Tibet builds on a sacred site.

driru-map-305.jpg A map shows the site of the standoff.

Local Tibetans have challenged Chinese work crews trying to build a dam near a mountain considered sacred by area residents, according to Tibetan sources.

The mountain, called Lhachen Naglha Dzambha, rises in Driru [in Chinese, Biru] county in the Nagchu Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), a native of the region now living in exile said.

“The Gyalmo Ngulchu [Salween] river runs through the foothills of this sacred mountain,” the source said.

“Sometime in August this year, a large number of Chinese workers arrived in the area. Local Tibetans were told they were building a dam.”

Representatives from each village in the county then gathered at the site to protest the construction, another Tibetan living in exile said, citing sources in the region.

“About 20 vehicles arrived carrying Tibetans from the northern region of Nagchu,” he said.

Villagers 'refused to move'

“The Tibetans confronted the Chinese workers and county and village authorities, saying that the Chinese were there not only to build a dam but to begin mining in the area.”

Though authorities told them they would be dispersed by force, the villagers “refused to move and asserted their right to protect the environment,” the source continued.

The Chinese themselves then left the area on Sept. 22 and 23, another man said, speaking from Tibet on the condition of anonymity.

“Chinese workers had already cut a path around the sacred mountain and had even built some structures there.  They were told to demolish these and to remove their equipment from the area,” he said.

A group of workers then returned to the area on Sept. 26, he said.

“They claimed that their permit to mine in the area had been approved by the Communist Party secretary of the TAR. They searched for the leaders of the [earlier] protest and accused them of ‘separatist’ activities.”

“So the situation is very tense again in Driru,” he said.

Frequent standoffs

Reached for comment, a Driru county official said, "There is no problem. Everything has been settled now."

Mining operations in Tibetan regions have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of disrupting sites of spiritual significance and polluting the environment as they extract local wealth.

In August, Chinese security forces in Sichuan province fired into a crowd of Tibetans protesting mining operations in Palyul county of the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, while in May, villagers in Markham county in the TAR renewed protests against Chinese mines operating on mountains they consider sacred.

Gyegudo county in Qinghai province and Drugchu county in Gansu this year experienced severe earthquakes and mudslides that some Tibetans in the area believe were caused in part by mining and land excavation.

Original reporting by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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