In the Tibet Autonomous Region, the air is fresh and transparent, and the environment as a whole remains high in quality. Upwards of 90 percent of industrial waste gases, waste water and other kinds of wastes in the region are concentrated in Lhasa, but the regional capital city remains one of the cleanest cities in China in terms of air quality.

No acid rain has ever hit the region's cities and towns. To date, it is free from any accidents resulting from environmental contamination. No radioactive and other perilous wastes have been located from solid discharges in the region.

By the end of 1999, the rate of industrial discharges treated reached 90 percent, and the rate of solid wastes utilized hit 45 percent. Some 232,000 hectares of cultivated land are free from industrial waste contamination.

Water resources in the Tibet Plateau account for 16.53 percent of the national total, providing sources for several major rivers in Asia. Environmental protection departments monitor these resources annually. According to results of the monitoring conducted in recent years, the water quality of rivers remains high and is better than the water quality of those in China at large.
More than 1,600 lakes in the Tibet Autonomous Region are free from contamination, and are still in a primeval status to the extent that fish unique to Tibet are still found swimming merrily in lake water. Humans frequent Namco and Yamzhug Yumcog, the region's largest lakes, but their water quality is up to the class A standard.

Measures for Environmental Protection

The government of the Tibet Autonomous Region set up special organs for environmental protection in 1975, and a Committee for Environmental Protection in 1990. In response to Central Government requirements, the autonomous region, in the 1990s, enacted and promulgated a number of rules and regions, including the Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region Concerning Environmental Protection, the Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region Concerning Protection of Forests, the Provisional Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region Concerning Management Over Grasslands, the Notice of the People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region for the Protection of Aquatic Resources, and the Methods of the Tibet Autonomous Region for Management Over and Protection of Environment of Construction Projects. More than 20 of these are associated with protection of wildlife.

For the protection of the environment, the Tibet Autonomous Region follows the system of evaluating the environmental impact of all construction projects that may cause pollution and the system for the projects to be designed, constructed and put into production alongside with contaminants treatment facilities. No factories are allowed to carry on production with indigenous methods, and hence cause serious contamination. Efforts have been made, and are still being made, for technological renovation of existing enterprises that contaminate the environment. They must all meet national standards set for industrial discharges within a given period of time.

In the 1990s, seven enterprises in the Tibet Autonomous Region were listed among 3,000 polluting enterprises in China. They were the Yangbajain Experimental Power Station, the Lhasa Tannery, the Lhasa Brewery, the Tibet Autonomous Regional Veterinary Biological Pharmaceuticals, the Lhasa Thermal Power Station, the Nyingchi Woolen Mill, and the Lhasa Cement Works. The Yangbajain Experimental Power Station, which went into operation in 1994, discharged waste water amounting to half of the total wastewater discharged in the autonomous region. In 1995, some 20 million Yuan was invested to install facilities for waste water recycling, leading to a decline in discharges ever since. The Lhasa Cement Works used to be a major pollutor, whose waste gas discharges make up 67.6 percent of the regional total. Through technological transformation, the works has greatly reduced its exhaust discharges. The other five enterprises have also undergone technological transformation.

Nature Reserves

The population of the Tibet Autonomous Region, small as it is, is relatively concentrated in certain areas with the result that the region has large areas without human habitation that cover an area of hundreds of thousands of square km, along with pristine forests. With Central Government support, the Tibet Autonomous Region has since the 1970s increased financial input in the protection of wild plants and animals. No hunting areas have been set up in areas that are home to rare animals. From 1982 to 1985, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region approved the establishment of seven nature reserves in Medog, Zayu, Gangxiang in Bome, Pagyi in Nyingchi, Zammo Gully in Nyilam, Jangcun in Gyirong, and Qomolangmo Peak, with the Medog Nature Reserve and the Qomolangmo Nature Reserve listed as State-class ones. In 1993, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region approved establishment of six nature reserves for wildlife in Changtang, Xainza, Yangjain in Mangkam, Dongjug in Nyingchi, Changmao Mountain in Riwoqe, and Pengbo in Lhungzhub.

The 13 nature reserves are distributed widely in the Tibet Autonomous Region and cover 325,400 square km, or 26.5 percent of the regional total area. In addition, some other parts of the autonomous region have set up 50-odd small nature reserves. A survey shows that the number of rare animals there has increased by 20-30 percent or more. For instance, the Zayu Nature Reserve has seen an increase of antelopes from 600 to over 1,000. Bengal tigers numbered less than 10 in the past, but now there are over 30. The number of Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys inhabiting the Mangkam Nature Reserve has increased from 600 a decade ago to 700 today, making the reserve the world's largest home for the species. Red deer and some other species, considered internationally to be on the verge of extinction, are still found in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The regional government has decided to invest 130 million Yuan to set up three nature reserves for the clay forests in Zanda, pillow-shaped lava in Xigaze, and geothermal geysers in Ngamring.

In 2001, the Northern Tibet Changtang No-Man's Area, a nature reserve at the Tibetan level, was promoted to be at the national level. Covering an area of 200,000 square km and with an average elevation of 5,000 meters, the area is one of the few areas in the world which boast natural ecology. It is also the largest and highest zoo for wildlife in the world.

In the 10 years to come, the area of the nature reserves in Tibet will reach 40.39 million hectares, or one-third of the land area in Tibet. The area of the ecological reserves add up to 3 million hectares; treated areas suffering from water and soil erosion and desertification reach 50,000 and 5,000 hectares respectively; and forest coverage reaches 9.87 percent.


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