Industrialization around the world has had a negative impact on the environment: polluting rivers, degrading landscapes and destroying wildlife and habitats. In an effort to protect the natural landscapes in China, the Chinese government is now investing vast sums of money to try and minimize the impacts of rapid growth.
It is heeding the message of the nations small and growing environmental movement that development and conservation can be partners, understanding that a green China will be an economically stronger and physically healthier nation.
As the fledgling network of environmental activists spreads across the worlds most populous nation, the Florida-sized Ganzi Prefecture in Sichuan Province stands as a model example for protecting Chinas threatened natural resources
The prefecture is home to approximately 880,000 people, 78 percent of whom are Khampa Tibetans who still practice traditional cultural perspectives and hold strong Buddhist beliefs that respect life and nature. In this tradition, every Tibetan village and monastery has its designated sacred sitesnearby mountains, forests
, lakes and rivers.
The area is home to 126 species of birds and 424 species of mammals, such as the giant panda
and golden monkey
. Wildlife moves freely and without peril across the landscape, an unusual sight in most places in China. The reason is the Khampa Tibetans belief in reincarnation. In a previous life, a person may have been a bird or a fish: in the next, perhaps a mammal. Safeguarding the land and the wildlife is part of protecting their past and their future.
Green Khampa, the first environmental NGO in Ganzi Prefecture was established in April 2004. Khampa Tibetans inhabit a large area in the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau which overlaps 80 percent of the Mountains of Southwest China hotspot
Founded by intellectuals in Ganzi Prefecture, Green Khampa is dedicated to boosting sustainable development and biodiversity conservation by revitalizing traditional natural resource management systems and the culture of living harmoniously with the nature.
Ganzi Prefecture and the Kham area are increasingly influenced by the outside world. Unbridled economic development
and other external influences have caused unsustainable natural resource use and eroded the traditionally harmonious relationship between Tibetans and nature. The timber industry was the major source of revenue in Ganzi until the Yangtze flood of 1998 killed thousands of people. Land erosion due to unsustainable timber extraction was seen as a major contributor to the severity of the flood. In response, the Chinese government ordered a halt to logging in the area.
Other environmental threats still exist. The Ganzi government recently released an ambitious development strategy focusing on mining and hydropower. The establishment of Green Khampa will help address such threats to the area, giving voice to conservation concerns.
Green Khampa has been very active since its foundation. Recently, members mobilized over 500 monasteries in the prefecture to collect information on their own designated sacred sites. This collection will establish important baseline information for the CI-China Sacred Land Protection. An expanded CI project will map and assess the biological value of thousands of sacred sites, all within the Mountains of Southwest China biodiversity hotspot
, then work with local and national governments to promote their legal protection.