Under the impact of the unique climate on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and increasing human activities, Tibet suffers from low coverage rate of plants in the Yarlung Zangbo River Valley, desertification, and a fragile ecological environment. The Tibet Autonomous Region has set up a special eco-function protection area at the source of the Yarlung Zangbo River, which is geared to protect plant coverage of the Gyima Yangzoin, source of the Yarlung Zangbo River, and its upper reaches. The middle reaches of the river is an area which, with high population density and high concentration of industries, suffers greatly from desertification. Since the 1990s, the regional government has been encouraging the planting of grass and trees to curb the situation.
With the further development of economy, the regional government has placed environmental protection on its work agenda. In 2004, it required the 15 enterprises which contributed 80 percent of the regional pollution to meet the regulated standards of environmental protection. They include the Tibet Yangbajain Geothermal Experimental Power Station and the Lhasa Cement Works.
Despite the trend towards a worsening global environment, Tibet, widely known as "the roof of the world", remains one of the least polluted regions in the world. No acid rain and no radiation pollution have so far occurred there. Scientific monitoring shows that Tibet is exposed to insignificant discharge of "three wastes", referring to industrial discharges, waste water and waste solid materials. Lhasa, the political, economic and cultural center of Tibet, where people live in relative concentration, contributes 90 percent of the regional total for the three kinds of wastes. Even so, the city is the least contaminated urban area in China.
The Qomolangma area meets the State's first class standard for air quality. Tibet has not witnessed any serious environmental "accident" and no dangerous materials or radioactive waste have been found.
In order to prevent urban lifestyle garbage and industrial solid wastes from polluting the environment, Tibet has strengthened its supervision, especially over the activities of hospitals in the disposal of wastes. In 2004, Tibet started construction of the TAR Dangerous Wastes Disposal Center and the TAR Radiation Wastes Bank. Tibet will set up a Hospital Wastes Disposal Center in six prefectures in 2006, to gradually standardize its supervision over the disposal of dangerous waste materials, hospital waste and radiation-active waste materials.
The water quality of the Yarlung Zangbo River, Jinshajiang River, Nujiang River, Lancangjiang River and other major rivers in Tibet remains high. The surrounding area of the 1,600 lakes is not polluted and retains a pristine quality. Though many people visit the Nam Co and Yangzhog Yumco Lake, the water quality is up to the first class standard set by the State.