By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, March 14: The activist group, Students for a Free Tibet, today observed the ‘International Day of Action for Rivers’ highlighting the plight of the many downstream countries of the trans-boundary river Brahmaputra (tib. Yarlung Tsangpo) that lay prone against the grave exploits by China.
Campaigns Director at SFT India Joytsna Sarah George and Program Coordinator Lobsang Tsetan along with SFT regional chapter members carried out a photo action on the Brahmaputra River near Guwahati to raise their voice against China’s incessant damming, mining and the diversion of the river in Tibet and the dangerous consequences that the people living in the downstream countries face.
Speaking to Phayul, Joytsna George said that the event organized especially in Guwahati is apt as they get to hear accounts and testimonials from the people who are directly affected by the consequences. “We are here to gather solidarity from local Indians who are directly affected by China’s merciless mega-dam on the tsangpo. I take this opportunity to protest the Zangmu Dam and call out China’s blatant stealing of our collective natural resources.”
McLeod Ganj, March 14, 2016, Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
On the response from the authorities and the decision makers of the issue, she said, “There has been concern and interest from the authorities but for issues like this, the grass-root solidarity is crucial so we are organizing awareness talks and discussions. We have also lobbied to push the issues unto higher offices. We need to build on it and keep up the pressure on the governments and international communities to hold China accountable.”
Lobsang Tsetan highlighted that the threat posed by these “reckless damming projects” essentially catering to the many mining pursuits inside Tibet is detrimental to many people. “Tibet is the water tower of Asia, providing freshwater to nearly 2 billion Asians. The rivers are facing an environmental crisis, projects like the 512 MW Zangmu dam inside Tibet has caused immense damage and continues to do so,” said lobsang.
Here in Dharamshala, the SFT India’s head office did a symbolic skit to highlight the issue. Tenzin Tselha, National Director for SFT India, told Phayul that the consequences of the heavy damming of the Yarlung Tsangpo for hydro electricity is already evident and causing more and more damages from the receding water level of the rivers to the decreasing fish population in the water that affects livelihood of the fishermen in downstream areas. “One fisherman in Assam told my colleague that the river there has shrunk and it’s now much more difficult to sustain livelihood with the diminished fish life in the Brahmaputra,” Tselha recounts a testimony of a local resident of Guwahati.
SFT chapters like Delhi, Jalandhar and Bangalore also organized photo-actions in Indian colleges and landmark sites.