Chinese Prefecture Cancels Dam Project on Sacred Tibetan Lake

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A controversial dam project on a sacred lake in eastern Tibet has been scrapped by the Chinese authorities following concerns expressed by local Tibetans and Chinese environmentalists.

"The decision on the Megoe Tso dam is a rare example of the government paying attention to local people’s concerns about the impact of major development projects in Tibetan areas," said Tashi Tsering, a specialist on the Tibetan environment at the University of British Columbia. "We are inspired by the exemplary efforts of the courageous local Tibetans and Chinese environmentalists who have been campaigning to stop this project."

The official Sichuan Daily newspaper reported on November 8 that the Ganzi Prefecture’s Party Committee and government in Sichuan Province had decided to cancel the Megoe Tso project in favor of tourism development. The Ganzi Prefecture’s Governor, Yao Si Dan, was quoted in the newspaper as saying that "although hydropower is clean energy, we are strongly against the impacts of this development on the environment."

The Megoe Tso Lake is surrounded by pristine glacial waters, hot springs, and primeval forests, all of which sustain more than 1,000 species of rare tropical plants and 2,000 varieties of animals and birds. Tourists, botanists, photographers and spiritual pilgrims from around the world visit the area every year. The number of interested people is bound to increase if the area is kept in its pristine condition.

"This is an encouraging development in China’s attitude towards hydropower development on the Tibetan plateau, which is especially vulnerable to large scale development projects," said Aviva Imhof, Campaigns Director of International Rivers. "We hope that other Chinese government agencies will follow suit and pursue more sustainable options for meeting the country’s energy needs."

Tashi Tsering, who authored a report on the project called Megoe Tso: Damming of Tibet’s Sacred Lake, said that the project is only one of hundreds of dams that are being planned in the region: "We hope that Ganzi Prefectural authorities will continue to give priority to opinions of environmental experts and local people when deciding upon other proposed dams, which if built would seriously disrupt the social fabric and ecological integrity in the headwater regions of the Yangtze River."

* Megoe Tso Lake is also known as Mugecuo in Pinyin and Yeti Lake in English.