The establishment of the “Three Rivers’ Sources Nature Reserve” in 2002 - one of China’s largest ecological protection projects - has had a major impact on the lives of Tibetan nomadic herders. This paper examines the ecological viewpoints of Tibetan herders, their conceptions of grassland protection and what they believe to be the best strategies to solve grazing problems. According to the Chinese authorities, the Nature Reserve was established to protect the grasslands, as well as the sources of China’s three major rivers – the Yellow River, the Yangtse and the Mekong. Grazing bans and flock reduction have been two recurring measures in this ecological protection project. Tibetan herders have also often been forced to settle down in new purpose built villages. These “ecological migrations”, as they are referred to in State environmental discourse, are also related to State policies to bolster security through population surveillance and territorial control. Therefore, in this complex context, ecological strategies are combined with political interests. To provide an alternative reading to the existing expert analyses of ecological problems and State reports on grassland and grazing problems, my paper focus on what Tibetan herders, resettled in new villages, think about these topics. Comparing their views against State discourse and policies, it is evident that herders have a different perception of the causes of the current ecological problems and propose alternative solutions, showing a high degree of consciousness of and active concern over grassland problems. Finally, I will argue that, although the ‘ecological migrations’ are often presented as the trigger of the settling of Tibetan nomads, the new resettlement villages are just the latest step in a much longer process of sedentarization, which had already started in the 1980s with the grasslands’ fencing policy.
"Tibetan Plateau Grassland Protection: Tibetan Herders' Ecological Conception Versus State Policies,"
HIMALAYA, the Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies:
1, Article 12.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/himalaya/vol30/iss1/12