By Choekyi Lhamo
Sanjiangyuan National Park
DHARAMSHALA, NOV. 14: The first national park modeled on the USA’s Yellowstone National park is expected to be inaugurated in 2020. In August, policy makers and scientists from China, USA and other countries convened a meeting in Xining, capital of Qinghai province, whereby they discussed plans to create a unified park system with clear standards for “limiting development and protecting ecosystems”. Chinese officials have also visited US national parks, Yellowstone and Yosemite, to seek information for the project.
In 2016, the State Council, China’s cabinet, approved a proposal to set up part of Sanjiangyuan as the country’s first pilot park for the national park system. Sanjiangyuan is the region that encompasses the headwaters of three of Asia’s great waterways: Yangtse, Yellow and Mekong. This project then carries an important question of how China can achieve both the goals of conservation and tourism while keeping in view the livelihoods and culture of the local people who live within or near the park’s boundaries which largely consist of the Tibetan people.
Though it has been stated that the government wants to set limits on the region’s development in order to protect ecosystems, it is difficult to ascertain how it can achieve both ecological conservation and support the communities at the same time.
Sanjiangyuan National Park
Zhu Chunquan, a member of the advisory committee of the national park system, commented on how it is quite urgent to identify the places, the ecosystems and other natural features to protect environment. China has marred the Tibetan plateau with multiplying skyscrapers and expanding high-speed rail-lines which have drastically affected its environment. China has undertaken vast resettlement programs to clear land for large infrastructure projects, leaving nomads and locals with new homes but without any suitable agricultural fields or access to other livelihoods.
Though the government is now giving jobs to people in Sanjiangyuan, the “One Family, One Ranger” program hires one person per family for 1800 yuan a month (18500 rupees) to perform tasks such as collecting trash and monitoring for poaching or illegal grazing activity.
Kunchok Jangtse is a Tibetan herder who has been involved with the program along with raising his own livestock and collecting caterpillar fungus. He noted his concerns and appreciations by saying that he hopes that his other livelihood won’t be impeded. “I'm not a highly educated person, and I am very concerned it may bring many difficulties in my life if I would switch my job and move to another place,” he told Aljazeera.