For centuries Tibetans have lived with nature, always seeking to learn and understand its nuances and rhythms. Our religion, Buddhism, has played a role in this respect. A general taboo against exploiting the environment was a direct result of our Buddhist knowledge and belief about the inter-relationship between all plants, animals, as well as the "non-living elements of natural world" have became a part of our daily lives. And after living like this for hundreds if years, it has become difficult for any Tibetan to differentiate between the practice of religion and concern for the environment.
Mineral resources of tibet
For centuries, the rich mineral sources of Tibet were not extracted except for some gold. Tibetans believe that mining the natural resources of country would diminish the natural strength of the land, would invite displeasure of the deities and would bring harm to society.
For instance, gold was mined in Lake Manasorovar in Western Tibet in the 1900. But following an outbreak of small pox attributed to the wrath of the pressing deity of the mine, the Tibetan government stopped the mining. Similarly, Khenrab Kunsang Mondrag, a Tibetan trained in mining, surveyed some parts Dakpo and Lokha in the 1920s and found petrol in large reserves. But the government did not give permission to extract the petrol on the grounds that this would affect the eco-system.
Plants and water
Central Tibet alone has more then 5,760 varieties of plants of which 3,000 have any economic value. In additions, there are more than 1,000 varieties of medicinal herbs, such as safflower, fritillary (Fritillaria thunbergii), Chinese catepillar fungus, Chinese angelica, red dotted salvia (salvia mititiorrhiza), dangshon (Codonopsis pilosula). Many of them are of high economic value and easy to collect because of their concentrated growth.
Tibet's forests constitute the largest forest reserve at China's disposal. Their devastation has been widely documented and up to 1980 an estimated US$ 54 billion worth of trees have been felled and taken to China. With such colossal deliberate and mindless deforestation, Tibet's eco-system has rapidly deteriorated.
Tibet is the principal watershed for the Asian continent. Four rivers, all with descriptive names, rise near Mount Kailash in the west. The Sengye Khabab (meaning out of the lion's mouth) flows through Kashmir to become the Indus in Pakistan. The Langchen Khabab (out the elephant's mouth) flows southward to become western India's Sutlej. The Mapcha Khabab (out of the peacock's mouth) becomes the sacred Ganges (though Gangotri in India is the accepted source for Hindus). And the Tachok Khabab (out of the horse's mouth) flows eastward and, joining the Kyichu river south of Lhasa, forms the Brahmaputra, which winds through Assam and Bengal.
A river known as the Ngochu rises in central Tibet and flows through Kham in eastern Tibet and into Burma, the Salween. From northern Tibet, two rivers, the Ngomchu and the Zachu, flow through Kham and into China as the Yangtse. The Machu river coming from the mountain of Machen Pomra in eastern Tibet, passes through Amdo and becomes the Huang Ho (the Yellow River) of China.
In addition there are more than fifteen hundred lakes scattered all over Tibet. These lakes, teeming with fish and surrounded by grasslands, provided ideal areas for animal husbandry.
Tibet is mountainous and much of the terrain is very steep, so that many rivers have enormous drops in elevation. The potential hydro-electric power was never harnessed. The geothermal energy, solar energy and wind power were also not exploited.
Respect for nature
As a result of their upbringing, Tibetans have a great respect for all forms of life. Traditionally Tibetans have always lived n harmony with nature. They obey the environmental decrees issued by the government. Through their religion Tibetans strive to improve the vitality of the earth and protect life on earth.
As for the future policy, the 14th Dalai Lama, announced a Five Point Peace Plan for Tibet, on September 21, 1987, at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington, D.C. The fourth point of this peace plan was devoted to the environmental issue and stated that "what little is left in Tibet must be protected and efforts must be made to restore the environment to its balance state."
Finally, I conclude with the Nobel Peace lecture of H.H. the Dalai Lama on December 11, 1989, at University Aula, Oslo, where he proposed:
It is my dream that the entire Tibetan plateau should become a free refuge where humanity and nature can live in peace and in harmonious balance. It would be a place where people from all over the world could come to seek the true meaning of peace within themselves, away from the tensions and pressures of much of the rest of the world. Tibet could indeed become the creative centre for the promotion and development of peace.