Sprinkled along several roads in Tibet, including the road to Everest Base Camp, are several signs sponsored by China Mobile:
• Protect the environment and save resources.
• Let’s work together to keep our sky blue and water clear.
• Protect the environment and construct a harmonious society.
• May green be with us forever.
Really, the sign at left (posted near Tashi Do at Lake Nam-Tso) would be more accurate. A future “without blue sky and clear rivers is in our hands.”
We went to Lake Yamdrok-Tso, a beautiful turquoise lake high in the mountains. It’s one of the most sacred lakes in Tibet, and many people make pilgrimages there.
So what does the (Chinese) government decide to do with this natural treasure? It decides to drain the lake to generate electricity.
People fought the plan, but it went through anyway. Since then – the 1990s – the water level has been dropping. See that pale band just above the water line? That’s how high the lake used to be. See the pylons on the ridge? It was depressing to see them interrupt the landscape.
And most of the electricity goes to power Chinese neighborhoods and military bases.
Another lake (whose name I can’t remember) is similar: high in the Himalayas, turquoise blue, and the site of a hideous hydroelectric plant.
One day, we drove through a site where a daunting row of orange machines drilled for water. The towering machines bobbed up and down like mechanical birds poking destructive beaks into the ground.
So: the talk is great. The talk is all about protecting the environment and keeping the skies blue. But the environment isn’t holding up too well under policies that undermine their pretty sayings about a green future. I don’t see that future there.