Image: Diane Barker, Instagram: Heartofasia108)
DHARAMSHALA, July 7: The International Campaign for Tibet has said the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, meeting in Krakow Friday, risks contravening its own guidelines if it approves without question a controversial nomination by the Chinese government for a vast area of Tibet known as Hoh Xil (“Achen Gangyap” in Tibetan).
The International Campaign for Tibet demanded more detailed examination of the nomination prior to inscription, seeking deferral of nominations for more in-depth assessment and study. “The traditional nomadic life of Tibetans must be respected and guaranteed as a precondition for the inscription, with a land use plan that establishes the right of Tibetans to graze their animals,” the Washington DC based NGO said on its website.
An expert mission for UNESCO identified serious concerns about China’s nomination, including the dangers to wildlife presented by an engineering corridor that runs through the area. However, in a conclusion that appears inconsistent with such warnings, the scientific mission from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature concluded that the nomination should still be approved at the 41st World Heritage Committee.
According to the ICT, the inscription of Hoh Xil without further detailed assessment would effectively signify endorsement from the international cultural heritage body of China’s ambitious policies including the displacement of Tibetan nomads from their land and the criminalization of traditionally productive and sustainable activities such as pastoralism and gathering medicinal herbs. “The involvement of Tibetans – and nomads in particular – as stewards is essential to sustaining the wildlife, the long-term health of the ecosystems, and the water resources that China and Asia depend upon”, said the ICT.
Matteo Mecacci, President of ICT, said: “While of course we fully support the aim of protecting biodiversity in the UNESCO application, UNESCO Committee members have a serious decision before them – they could decide to help ensure the survival of the nomadic traditions of one of the richest spiritual cultures in the world. Or they could risk giving UNESCO’s approval and brand equity to a nomination that raises serious concern and questions – a precedent that has been set before with detrimental results. For instance in the ‘Three Parallel Rivers’ protected area of Yunnan, given World Heritage status in 2002, the actual rivers were excluded from the defined protected area, which allowed China to proceed with hydro dam construction, power grid construction and other development – resulting in a decline in wildlife population and difficulties for the local Tibetan population.”