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Cablegate: Tibet: Local Authorities Move to Restore Grasslands, But

VZCZCXRO9586
PP RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHCN #0311/01 3512232
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 172232Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL CHENGDU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3643
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHC/USAID WASHDC
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 4359

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHENGDU 000311

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/CM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAGR EFIN PGOV PINR SENV CH
SUBJECT: TIBET: LOCAL AUTHORITIES MOVE TO RESTORE GRASSLANDS, BUT
HIGH PLATEAU DESERT CONDITIONS SUGGEST EFFORTS MAY BE FAILING

CHENGDU 00000311 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) This cable contains sensitive but unclassified
information - not for distribution on the Internet.

2. (SBU) Summary. The Director General of the Animal Husbandry
Bureau in Lhoka Prefecture said recently that suitable
grasslands for grazing animals were becoming increasingly
scarce. To combat this, the Prefecture: introduced the
grassland contract system, encouraged returning pastures to
natural grasslands, and tried to limit the size of grazing
herds. This official also blamed global warming for shrinking
grasslands. Rising incomes and a growing population in Lhoka
may also be contributing to increased demand for livestock and
pressure to overgraze. ConGenOffs observed extensive,
Sahara-like sand dunes in Lhoka, and large herds of goats
appeared to be scavenging for every available blade of grass.
Better seed varieties and veterinary health are improving rural
incomes. More peasants are entering the cash economy and
opening up bank accounts in an expanding rural financial system.
End Summary.

Trying to Reign in the Herd,

But Desertification Appears to Be Worsening

-------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Director General Tenzin, an ethnic Tibetan, told Consul
General November 24 that his Bureau had noticed that land
available in Lhoka for grazing animals had declined. In
response to the loss of grasslands over the last several years,
Tenzin said officials in Lhoka implemented rules on the number
of animals permitted to graze per hectare of grassland. These
rules are outlined under the grassland business contract
responsibility system [caochang jingying chengbao zirenzhi],
which include contracts that herders sign. Lhoka's grassland
management practices align with the 2005 grassland management
program outlined by the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)
government, which have been implemented in most parts of the
TAR. Officials aim to reduce the number of grazing animals,
such as cows, by offering unspecified subsidies to farmers to
sell or slaughter their livestock.

4. (SBU) Tenzin said that officials had fenced off certain areas
to prohibit all grazing and allow grasslands time to grow (tuimu
huancao). Some bans on grazing in selected areas lasted for as
long as five years -- a length of time consistent with the
fragile, slow growth ecosystem of high altitude Tibetan
plateaus. Without specifying the time, Tenzin said that the
prefectural government had invested about 10 million USD to
protect the grasslands. He claimed that these efforts had been
successful in controlling grassland degradation and
desertification, but did not provide specific data to support
this claim.

5. Tenzin claimed that global warming also contributed to
shrinking grassland, but did not explain why. He said only that
Tibet's lakes were shrinking and its glaciers melting. (Note:
As ConGenoffs travelled through the northern portions of the
prefecture, which appeared in the dry season like a
high-altitude desert, we passed by miles of fenced-in areas that
may have been part of the grassland protection efforts. More
prominent, however, were the extensive, Sahara-like sand dunes
and large herds of goats that appeared to be scavenging for
every available blade of grass. End Note.)

Rising, Wealthier Population

Contributing to Grassland Degradation?

--------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Tenzin said that officials were worried about the
impact that the increasing population would have on the
environment. As of late 2006, the TAR government claimed the

CHENGDU 00000311 002.2 OF 002


prefecture had a population of about 330,000, up roughly 12,000
people from its 2000 level, and roughly double the population of
the prefecture in 1959. (Note: Tenzin did not say how much the
population would grow in the next 5-10 years, but another strain
on the local environment may be the push for larger herds to
generate income and feed an increasingly affluent population.
The TAR government seeks to increase the per capita GDP in the
prefecture to slightly more than 2,000 USD by the end of next
year. End Note.)

Animal Husbandry Bureau Hits the Road to Improve Quality of Life

--------------------------------------------- -------------------

7. (U) Tenzin explained that his Bureau had over 130 staff, the
majority of whom are experts that spend a substantial portion of
their time travelling to the prefecture's 82 townships.
Technical advice and encouraging farmers to use better varieties
of seed and livestock is making life better, Tenzin claimed. As
an example of this, he mentioned that use of "winter wheat no.
6" had boosted harvests. Lhoka Prefecture will establish
village veterinary stations throughout the Prefecture in 2010,
Tenzin said. A very large investment in housing for animals in
the prefecture has been completed, and has reduced winter
losses.

TAR's Rural Banking System Expands

----------------------------------

8. (SBU) Tenzin also discussed how, with many more peasants and
farmers now coming in closer contact with the cash economy,
financial services including small loans were reaching every
village through representatives of the China Agricultural Bank.
Herders, whose traditional "bank accounts" were their herds, are
now getting real bank accounts. The TAR expects within several
years to implement the Golden Benefit Card debit card scheme,
under which 30 million Chinese peasants can get government
subsidies deposited to their debit card, thereby bypassing local
officials who sometimes try to siphon off subsidies to support
their own schemes. (Note: The China Economic Times on November
18 discussed the Golden Benefit Card and its 30 million peasant
cardholders at URL tinyurl.com/golden-benefit-card. End Note.)
BROWN

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