Rudi Bressa| Lifegate: Tibetan monks plant trees to fight deforestation


15,000 trees are to be planted to revive a once heavily-forested area. The aim is reversing the environmental damage caused by indiscriminate logging.

Tibetans describe the hills around their place of prayer as a once pristine area, an earthly paradise. But with occupation everything changed. Trees and timber have been exploited for years, wiping out entire forests. As of 18 April, though, the monks of the Dzogchen monastery, in the Sichuan region, along with the local Tibetan community, began planting thousands of new trees in order to reforest the area.

Tibetan monks planting new trees

New trees to protect the environment

Launched by lama Tenzin Lungtok Rinpoche, the reforestation campaign aims to plant at least 15,000 trees “to combat global climate change and protect the environment,” RFA’s source said. The once forested area has been heavily spoiled since the 1960s. Entire slopes are now barren, deserted and no longer able to retain water and control temperatures in the surrounding environment.

China “saw the great forests of Kham as a free resource to be exploited, with not even the cost of cutting roads,” said Gabriel Lafitte, Australia-based expert on Tibet’s environment. “The simpler alternative was to clearfell entire slopes from the bottom right up to the ridge line, simply rolling the tree trunks into the rivers below to be collected well downstream where they entered the lowlands of Sichuan”. Logging was banned in the 1990s yet little was done to recover the area.

The Dalai Lama. Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Dalai Lama’s concerns

The Tibetan spiritual authority is concerned about the situation of his homeland. He told: “Recently, a few thousand Tibetans from India went to their native places in Tibet. When they returned, they all told the same story. They said that about forty or fifty years ago there were huge forest covers in their native areas. Now all these richly forested mountains have become bald like a monk’s head”.

The Dalai Lama has also talked about climate change and the changes natural cycles go through when habitats are destroyed. “The large-scale deforestation in Tibet is a matter of great sadness. It is not only sad for the local area, which has lost its beauty, but for the local people, who now find it hard to collect even enough fuel wood,” he explained. “The deforestation of the Tibetan plateau, according to experts, will change the amount of reflection from snow into space (forested areas absorb more solar radiation) and this affects the monsoon of the next year, not only in Tibet, but in all surrounding areas. Therefore, it becomes even more important to conserve Tibet’s environment”.

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