Dilemma for Ecological Protection of Gela Dandong, Source Region of Yangtze River

Time: 2016-10-31 Source: The Beijing News

On the map, trace the source of the 6380-km Yangtze River all the way westward and you will find Gela Dandong.

On published administrative maps, Gela Dandong is under the jurisdiction of Qinghai Province; According to the relevant State Council documents, the actual administrator governing this place is Anduo County, Tibet. Recent years has seen differences and clashes between Qinghai and Tibet in the preservation of Gela Dandong.

Anduo County carries out the closed-off protective measures to the region, forbidding any entry without permission; Qinghai, on the other hand, includes Gela Dandong as the core protection zone in its applied plan of San Jiangyuan Nature Reserve and San Jiangyuan National Park.

Since this year, people of relevant activities from Qinghai have been discouraged from entering Gela Dandong and advised to return where they have come from.

As the source of Yangtze River, Gela Dandong is presently faced with the predicament of ecological conservation project investment.

After a week’s rushing about, a team charging towards Gela Dandong was stopped on the morning of Sep. 27.

The motorcade was led by Axia Yonghong, head of Yushu Tourism Bureau, Qinghai. Fellow travelers were 40-50 people including those from Yushu public security organs, transport agencies, apart from experts, journalists, actors, and other professionals. Moreover, one deputy chief of Zhiduo County, Yushu was held back.

Since April, there have been at least three times of blockage. A team led by one vice mayor of Yushu getting involved as well.

Gela Dandong as the source of Yangtze River is located in the border region of Qinghai and Tibet. It is just the local cadres and herdsmen of Anduo County that have stopped them. Anduo County, Tibet adopts the restraint-oriented steps to protect Gela Dandong, the source of Yangtze River, forbidding any external entry without permission.

Yang Yong, a scientific investigation expert, said the ecological environment of Gela Dandong, is fragile. Qinghai and Tibet hold two different management systems and protective concepts. He worries that Gela Dandong will lose the opportunities of protection and development.

The Yangtze River source safeguarded by the herdsmen

On Sep. 22, the campaign “Journey of Tracing the Source of Yangtze River in Yushu” (“长江源寻根溯源玉树行”) saw 40-50 participants set out from Yushu, Qinghai towards Jianggu Diru, a glacier of Gela Dandong, to fetch water.

The team didn’t take the normal gravel roads, but bypassed them to “slip into” Gela Dandong.

As shown by the map, Gela Dandong, in geographical regionalization it belongs to Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, Qinghai. Choosing to slip into instead of walking on the normal route on his own domain, the Yushu Tourism Bureau director Axia Yonghong had his own considerations: to avoid the jurisdiction sight of the government of Maqu Township, Anduo County, Tibet.

This April saw a vice mayor of Yushu lead one team to fetch water up from Jianggu Diru Glacier for the international drifting competition, only to find themselves obstructed for 3 days in the government of Maqu Township and finally come back at the advice of the government.

This time, Axia Yonghong and other team members drove a dozen of off-road vehicles in the wilderness, marching forward here and there to locate the way to Jianggu Diru Glacier.

But this year saw an earlier snow season than former years in the Tanggula area, with the meadows and tracks originally serving as landmarks being fully snow-covered, in which case, the vehicles would easily get lost and stranded in moors and muds.

Consequently, 5 of the 12 vehicles had ever sunk at a time. Frequently the just rescued car fell again before it could roll along for more than several meters. The most serious situation is when a car’s chassis got sucked in the moor, even a 6-ton motor tractor and 3 “Wrangler” jeeps together failing to pull out the car which remained as motionless in the moor.

The motorcade ended up seek temporary lodging in the nearby household of herdsman Ya Da, who is the grassland ranger in No. 6 Village, Maqu Township.

On Sep. 26, Ya Da delivered a report to the township government through the interphone. With a range of 20 km, the interphone is used to pass onto information from one herdsman to another until it goes to the township government.

On the grassland without cell phone signals, telescope and interphone are magic keys to the herdsmen’s communication. Before they were spotted, the team’s whereabouts had been already captured by the herdsman households on the way, who in turn also reported the situation to the township government.

On the morning of Sep. 27, Jiang Cun, secretary of the Party committee of Maqu Township, came to Ya Da’s home. Together with him was one female subprefect of Zhiduo County, Yushu.

“I have been detained. ” She said she contacted a car and let it take her to run after the team which had already departed, only to be spotted by the herdsmen again.

Advised to come back due to the unapproved invasion

Jiang Cun came to persuade the team to be back.

According to the regulations enacted by Anduo County, Naqu area, Tibet to deal with the environmental protection of Yangtze River core area, any entry into Gela Dandong must be reported to the local government ahead of time and on the premise of no intervention into the environment and the herdsmen’s meadows and the local government’s guarantee can relevant activities be carried out there. But the team did not get any approval procedure from relevant Tibetan authorities. What’s more, the team’s motor tractor fully loaded with bulk petrol, gas tanks, and medical oxygen cylinders, which without approval procedures, cannot enter, either.

Jiang Cun said Gela Dandong currently has no conditions of letting in large-scale personnel and motorcades. Self-driving that arbitrarily runs over the meadow can easily spark mass unexpected incidents from herdsmen; the motorcade which rushes blindly can easily get lost and have no safety guarantee.

Jiang Cun told The Beijing News journalist that protecting the ecology of Yangtze River source is the local top priority.

On the morning of Sep. 27, after 7 hours’ bargain, the team from Yushu came back frustratedly. Along the regular route from Maqu Township to Yanshiping County via Qinghai-Tibet Highway, they returned to Tuotuo River.

When the team was getting past Yanshiping County, they saw a checkpoint and a warning sign: “You have entered Source Region of Yangtze River. Any unauthorized entry shall incur regulation-stipulated liabilities. ”

The warning sign was set up by the environmental protection agency of Anduo County, Tibet Autonomous Region.

Soon afterwards, Zhaxi Pingcuo, prefect of Anduo County, said to The Beijing News journalist that according to State Council replies to relevant documents, Anduo County, Tibet Autonomous Region has the actual jurisdiction over the Gela Dandong area. Within this area, Anduo County has set up Maqu Township, Sewu Township, Marong Township, Duoma Township, Gangni Township, and Shiping Town, totaling about 50 thousand ㎡. The first water drop of Yangtze River just flows down from Jianggu Diru Glacier, Gela Dandong, No. 4 Village, Maqu Township.

“For a couple of or even tens of years the imprinting left by the fallen cars have been still there. ” said Zaxipingcuo, adding that the ecological environment of Yangtze River source is so fragile that once it is damaged, it is hard to be remedied. Without surefire basic protection measures, the Yangtze River source would not let anyone in. “Anyone, regardless of whether he is from Tibet or Qinghai, cannot get in. We cannot ruin the lands for our descendants.”

According to Zhaxi Pingcuo, it is not that the local government has no money to build the road straight to the glacier but that it deliberately didn’t do that on the purpose of blocking swarms of pilgrims. “Maybe some people think I am wrong. But after many years, other people will understand what I have done. I firmly believe that. The brook you are striding across is the original Yangtze River. What should the lower reach do if the upper reach gets polluted or ? ”

According to Gao, head of Provincial Propaganda Department, as of April, they have at least three times persuaded the Qinghai teams rushing into the area without their knowledge. “Talking sense to them was described as ‘detaining’ and accommodating them was described as ‘house arresting’. How melancholy! ”

Gao said, due to no strict protection in the past, the vehicles and travelers often trod meadows, clashing with the herdsmen. That’s why this year saw the Gela Dandong area patrol become the priority among priorities. Without approval from higher authority, no one can get into Gela Dandong.

The glacier of Yangtze River is melting

On Sep. 30, approved by relevant authorities of Naqu City and Anduo County, The Beijing News journalist, led by the local guide, entered Gela Dandong via the grazing way used by herdsmen to keep from meadows.

It is about 108 km on foot from Maqu Township, Anduo County to Jianggu Diru Glacier in winter, and more than 140 km in summer because of the detours around great rivers.

If by car, the last 20-30 km before reaching the glacier must be covered along with the marks made of piled rocks by herdsmen. Jiang Cun said, these are voluntarily made by herdsmen, and even their own cars cannot run over the nearby grass.

Meadows of Maqu are mostly Alpine steppes, Alpine meadows, and Alpine swamps. The autumn saw the yellow kobresia myosuroides, stipa capillata and others which seem to grow everywhere but are planted scarcely with a small coverage. “Cattle and sheep keep eating but are always hungry, ” said Jiang Cun.

It is still extremely difficult to enter Gela Dandong now. Because the rock-made marks are shrouded by snow, the car frequently goes missing. The guide and the township Party committee secretary Jiang Cun had to get off their car occasionally and look around before they were able to find the direction.

Presently, it is no more workable to directly go into the herdsman’s home for temporary lodging. At the sight of the car approaching, the grassland ranger will wave his hand and rush forward, driving his car to directly forbid the pass.

Jiang Cun said there is a population of more than 2700, of whom 120 are guards, and 20 cadres forming a commando to patrol, rescue, pick up trash and so on. “The county government annually appropriate 200 thousand yuan as the Yangtze River protection fund. ”

It is introduced that the practice aims to protect the ecology of the Yangtze River source.

According to many years’ survey and measurement results by Yang Yong, leading scientist of Hengduan Mountains Research Institute, 85-90% of the glacier of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is shrinking——the solid reservoir of Yangtze River source is rapidly melting, with many small glaciers already disappearing to result in snow line ascending to higher than 5800 m. That the glacier is fading away, melt water is increasing and frozen earth is unfreezing within a short period also deeply changes the appearance of some downstream lakes and wetlands, and even the vast grassland is coming to become wild bare land and Yardang landform.

“The preservation should not be separated because of attribution of management.”

According to the local people, recent years has seen an increase of awareness in ecological protection of the Three-River source region.

On Jan. 26, 2005, the 79th Executive Meeting of the State Council approved “General Plan for Ecological Protection and Construction of Three-River Source Region Nature Reserve”. Li Xiaonan, head of the Three-River Source Region National Park Administration (preparatory) revealed that based on the general plan approved in 2005, the national-level Three-River Source Region Nature Reserve which was established in the same year attracted a total investment of 7.5 billion yuan. On this basis, from 2014, the second phase of the project as the expansion, extension, and improvement of the first phase was funded by 16 billion yuan started.

Mar. 5, 2016 saw General Office of the CPC Central Committee and General Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China officially distribute “Pilot Program of Three-River Source Region National Park”. This June, Three-River Source Region National Park Administration (preparatory) was founded in Xining, Qinghai. Li Xiaonan, deputy head of The Development and Reform Commission of Qinghai Province holds a concurrent post of director of the administration.

The Beijing News journalist found that for both the Three-River Source Region Nature Reserve approved in 2005 and the Three-River Source Region National Park approved in this year together with the appendant “Planning Map for Three-River Source Region Nature Reserve” and “Distribution Map for Three-River Source Region National Park”, Gela Dandong has been marked as a core area.

Zhaxi Pingcuo, prefect of Anduo County, said Gela Dandong’s environmental and ecological protection funds are both appropriated from the county’s fiscal expenditure without any other financial resources. But there has been no waiting in the ecological environment protection of the source region, with Anduo County this year contributed 100-200 thousand yuan to subsidizing patrolling cars, herdsmen as guards and so on.

Yang Yong learned that both Three-River Source Region Nature Reserve and Three-River Source Region National Park were projects reported by Qinghai and approval by way of official written reply and Gela Dandong area has not got any of the above-mentioned project funds.

In Yang Yong’s opinion, as a whole of the physiogeographic unit, Gela Dandong should not be cut apart in administrative demarcation and management attribution.

The unsuccessful water-fetching activity this time, according to Axia Yonghong, is the result of lack of time and no contact with Tibet. The following series of activities will be communicated with Naqu Tourism Bureau.

In the interview with The Beijing News journalist, Li Xiaonan said that as Gela Dandong has been included into the core area of Three-River Source Region National Park, the appropriation of relevant state-approved protection funds to Gela Dandong will be taken into consideration. The funds will be invested in the relevant protection and research work. Supervisory control, early warning, study, and other measures will be adopted for the protection of Yangtze River source.

Besides, Li Xiaonan emphasized that given the fragile ecology of the Yangtze River source, ecological experience, and scientific research can be rolled out there but never tourism development, to say nothing of large-scale tourism development. Tourism should never ever be linked up with the Yangtze River source.

Reported in Qinghai and Tibet by Liu Wen and Chen Jie, journalists from the Beijing News