Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Testimony on Toe-lung Dechen County

Post By L.Tsering
December 2006

(Photo: Toelung County Middle School)

Toe-lung Dechen, a county under Lhasa municipality of what is today known as Tibet Autonomous Region lies about 10 Kilometers from the capital city. The place is believed to have gotten its name from a tributary of Kyichu river called To-lung that runs through the area.

After the Chinese invasion of Tibet, three district areas that are located on the bank of To-lung river are merged into one county which is now known as Toe-lung Dechen county. The three previous districts are: Dechen district, Dong-kar district and Neu district. Today there are two towns and five villages under To-lung Dechen county. It is estimated that To-lung Dechen county is about 2,700 sq.km in size with population of about 40,000. 90% of the population are farmers, while the remaining are nomads.

Prior to the Chinese occupation of Tibet the socio-economic life of the people inhabiting To-lung river was of high standard. Due to its close proximity to the Capital City, Lhasa, the knowledge or learning of religion, culture and literature were also of high standard. The population growth was in harmony with the environment. It has rich natural resources and land fertility was rated highly. The crops are in high yield and quality in terms of nutrition. In fact it has become a tradition in Tibet to rate the quality of tsampa, a stable Tibetan food, with the tsampa from To-lung.

However, after the merge of the three districts into Toe-lung Dechen county on 14 August 1959 by Chinese authority and subsequently establishing the County People’s government, on 9 September 1959. Namkha Ngoshi, an area under the former Dong-kar district was made headquarter of Toe-lung Dechen County. They have also established some administrative and military offices in the county. Gradually the Chinese authority started many developmental projects including the construction of road connecting the county with Lhasa without considering the impacts these projects on livelihood of the local people. These projects were initiated primarily to serve the interests of these offices and for aesthetic reasons. The projects have brought enormous harm to the environment of the county. For example, Chinese have constructed a cement factory in Dhong-kar area of the county which led to the mining of the nearby hills. The dust or dirt emitted from the factory has impacted badly on the health of the local people. Local people have expressed their protest against the factory and there was instance of local people demonstrating against the plan to move the local people to some other area.

Now with the start of Gormo-Lhasa Railroad project on 29 June 2001, and the decision to build railroad across To-lung county, it will have a huge negative impact on the traditional livelihood of local Tibetan farmers in the region. Coming under lure of the Chinese authority’s huge campaign claiming benefits it promises to the people, will prove disaster to the future generation of To-lung Dechen county. Foreseeing the negative impacts of the railroad passing through their agricultural land, the people of yab-dha area expressed their fears and protest through concerned offices, which subsequently forced the concerned authority to change the course of the railroad through an unoccupied area in Neu shang. Though this has temporarily solved the problem in that area, To-lung Dechen county’s residents, whose lands and houses were marked for laying the railroad, will constantly live in fear unless the decision is reversed.
As if the Chinese authorities’ceaseless campaign for railway project and the benefits it promises to the people of To-lung Dechen county were not enough to silence any protest or dissent from the local people against the construction of railroad, the county chief Dolkar has been parroting the Chinese campaign by explaining to the people in 2001 that the three fourth of the local population will benefit from the project. The county is growing fast economically due to its close proximity to the capital city of Lhasa and high fertility of the land. However, the local people of Toe-lung Dechen county live in constant fear, not sure of their future after the project completes. The magnitude of the negative impacts that would be brought about by China’s railway project on the local people of To-lung Dechen county will come to light only if there is a fair and an unbiased investigation into the project and its effects.