Sustainable development key to Tibet

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Sustainable development is key to Tibet's future, said experts participating in a two-day forum on Tibet's development co-hosted by the Tibet government and the State Council Information Office.

The forum, which ended on Wednesday, invited nearly 100 speakers from 36 countries and regions.

All speakers agreed environmental protection is central for Tibet's sustainable development and that industrial development, the backbone of the modern economy, should not be demonized as a scapegoat for all negative influences on the environment. Instead, it is how industries are planned and operated that really counts for Tibet.

From 1952 to 2012, 96 percent of the Tibet government's expenditure came from the central government. The Tibet government will have to change its role from a spender to an earner, the forum found.

Given the serious pollution caused by industry in east and central China, the Tibet government must draw lessons from other regions in China. The advanced industrial administration and development model of developed countries is also instructive for Tibet governors, said Kondo Shoichi, secretary general of the Nonpartisan Sino-Japan Friendship Parliamentarians' Union.

"Japan has experienced setbacks in balancing industrial development and environmental protection after World War II. I do not want to see such a beautiful place as Tibet take that detour again. The degradation of Tibet's environment and ecology may have a global impact," Shoichi said.

"Tibet has rich minerals underground. The cheap labor and modern transportation system here are attractive to foreign companies. But the industries must be run in proper ways with effective supervision," said keynote speaker Pat Breen, chairman of the Joint Committee of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the Irish Parliament.

Its unique landscape and cultures can make Tibet ideal alternatives for Western tourists, Breen said. The money earned in industries and tourism can be used to improve housing and to increase the incomes of poor farmers and herdsmen.

Peter Wittmann, a member of the Austrian National Council and Chairman of the Committee of Constitution in Austria, added that the authority must strictly implement environmental protection laws. China has made many laws to fit its fast development. This is a good beginning for China's transformation to a rule-of-law country, he said.

"To some extent, it is very difficult to shun the pollution-first-and-clean-up-later development model, even for Tibet," Wittmann said. But an innovation-driven economy, learning lessons from developed economies and more cooperation with advanced countries can help Tibet minimize the negative influence of economic growth, he added.

Although Tibet's economy has grown about sixfold in the past 10 years, most of the growth has comes from investment on infrastructure construction, especially in the transportation system, and was also funded by the central authority.

Many foreign speakers at the forum suggested Tibet develop modern agriculture and husbandry, tourism, mining industries and productive service sectors, such as logistics, research and development. None of those industries present an easy job for the local government, which has legal-bound duties to ensure all industries develop in an environmentally friendly manner.

Most attendants at the forum were in Tibet for the first time. They are looking forward to the following two days of field research in Linzhi in southeast Tibet, where they will study a housing improvement project and the environmental protection in the town, which is famous for its valley views.

"The forum promotes exchanges of ideas on so many key issues concerning Tibet's sustainable development," said Cui Yuying, deputy-director of the State Council Information Office. "The event also allowed the world a better understanding of Tibet's needs."

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