Tibet Third Pole panel at the Kalachakra

Tibet the Third Pole and its Impact on Asia’s Future


Tibet the Third Pole and its Impact on Asia’s Future

A Tibetan Women’s Association undertaking during the 32nd Kalachakra Initiation at Bodhgaya, January 2012


Tibet Third Pole panel at the Kalachakra
The expert panel speaking at the 32nd Kalachakra

TWA has a primary focus on achieving international advocacy and tangible support for Tibet’s environment.  Thus during the two-week 32nd Kalachakra initiation TWA launched a global climate action titled ‘Protect Tibet the Third Pole.’

A petition drive (on the ground and online) titled ‘Nomads for Planetary Third Pole’ was very successful.  3500+ signatures were gathered at Bodhgaya.  One petition is addressed to the Environment Ministries of the ten downstream nations excluding China.  These are ten countries in Asia namely: China, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal all receive water from Tibet’s rivers.   These are the Mekong, Yangtse and Salween in the east, Brahmaputra in the center, and Kamali, Indus and Sutlej in the west. The second petition is addressed to the Environment Ministry of People’s Republic of China. The petition urges the Chinese leadership to halt the forced eviction of nomads from the Tibetan plateau and thereby ensure the future food and water security of Asia.

A campaign launch video was also made available online. Both the campaign launch video and the petition are available on www.tibet3rdpole.org and www.tibetanwomen.org.

As part of the climate campaign, a climate conference titled ‘Tibet the Third Pole and its impact on Asia’s future’was held on Monday, January 9. The panel of experts included; Michael Buckley, travel writer and filmmaker on Tibet, Mr. Vijay Kranti, Indian writer and journalist, Tenzin Norbu, head of the Environment and Development office of the Central Tibetan Administration and Tenzin Dorjee, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT).

Norbu elaborated on what Tibet, established as ‘Asia’s Water Tower’ and ‘head region for 10 rivers in Asia’ could forecast on Asia’s future water security.   Besides establishing the prominence of Earth’s Third Pole’ in the age of climate change, he raised the alarm saying that ‘the rising permafrost temperature and Tibet’s melting glaciers will prove ruinous for Asia’s future.’ Norbu stated that the Central Tibetan Administration opposed the Chinese ‘environmental policies; mining, damming and river diversion’ being implemented inside Tibet because of its adverse impact on Tibet and Asia.

Michael Buckley presented on the environmental destruction taking place inside Tibet –  unchecked damming, river diversion and extensive mining. “This is man-made destruction that needs to be checked and, if left unchecked, will create environmental crisis for downstream nations” said Buckley.

Answering a question on ‘what could be done about damming in Tibet,’ Buckley said that ‘China is used to suppressing movements and have been successful in frightening the downstream nations.  It is imperative and timely for the United Nations to pass a resolution on water-sharing and that the exile advocates should pressure China to sign the resolution on trans-boundary rivers and that we could hope that there will be a movement within China on these pressing environmental issues.’

Vijay Kranti presented on the history of China’s control on the Asian subcontinent and on the long-standing injustices facing Tibetans in their own homeland. He expounded on how China’s continued dominance on the Tibetan plateau is a great threat to Tibet and a greater threat to India.  He was asked a question about the ‘Sino-India border dispute over Arunachal Pradesh’, to which he answered that ‘China being an illegal occupant of Tibet has no right to make noise over Arunachal.’  “India should stop remaining silent, and it is in India’s interest more than in the Tibetan interest to stand up to China’s might”.

Tenzin Dorjee explained that the environmental crisis in Tibet is happening in the dark and that is should cause an alarm to the rest of the world. He presented on the various campaigns SFT has led in speaking against the Nomad’s displacement. Tendor refuted the Chinese Government’s claim that the ‘resettlement of Tibet’s Nomads’ is a climate mitigation measure’ and on the contrary asserted that ‘Tibet’s Nomads have enabled the sustainability of Tibet’s vast grasslands.’ He presented on how the uprooting of nomads from the pastureland is connected to the loss of water and further commented that the loss of the 8000-year-old nomadic culture is an ethnic genocide, which endangers Tibet’s ecosystem and concluded that this ongoing genocide should be stopped.

Tendor also said that grassroots environmental campaigns protesting the Chinese acts of ‘mining and water diversion’ are already sweeping across Tibet and that many such protests have been successful. “It is essential that we amplify their voices and echo their demands and thereby celebrate their success,” he said.

After Tendor introduced information about the resistance movement in Tibet against the Chinese environmental projects and the victories achieved, TWA’s WEDD officer Tenzin Woebum made a brief presentation on the ‘the global actions that are already in place and the counter measures adopted by Tibet Third Pole (T3P), the global campaign working group. Woebum also spoke about TWA’s global climate actions such as Tibet Third Pole (T3P) representation at COP-15 and COP-17 Summit

Moderated by TWA’s Communication Officer Dhardon Sharling, this two-hour evening discussion included an interactive question and answer round and discussed how in the age of climate change, Tibet’s environment is under threat thus posing a greater threat to Asia and how this could be averted. The conference catered to a select invitation-based audience of 100 people: international media, local media, democracy activists, environmental researchers, and dignitaries representing some of the downstream nations namely: India, Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam. TWA executives presented an exclusive invitation to Shri Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar who later apologized for not being able to attend the event.

The conference succeeded in further increasing the global awareness of Tibet’s environment and its impact on Asia. It concluded that consistent actions need to be taken to save Tibet’s environment from China’s failed ‘environmental policies’ which only seem to exacerbate the loss of Tibet’s fragile environment, thus endangering the future food and water security of Asia.

TWA’s WEDD anticipates tangible action from the US Congress following the January 26, 2011 United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing of a written testimony on Water Security and Environmental Management on the Tibetan Plateau, submitted by the Environment and Development Desk (EDD) of the Central Tibetan Administration. (CTA).

TWA will further strengthen its ‘Protect Tibet the Third Pole’ campaign and build on the petition campaign and thereby achieve our goals: 1)  seeking to ally with the downstream nations to halt the forced removal of nomads and 2) significantly alert the Asian countries on their future food and water security which is reliant on Tibet’s water and ecosystem. The highlights include World Water Day campaign, World Environment Day campaign and participation in the Rio Earth Summit and the COP-18 UN Summit.

Observer’s comments on the conference:

I am quite taken by the quality of the videos and presentations made and the Tibetan groups have a strong message backed by powerful visuals to alert the downstream nations on Tibet’s environment.” Wilson Lee, Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for Democracy. (NED) based in Washington, DC.

Initially, when I got the invitation, I thought it would be one of the many events happening simultaneously in Bodhgaya. But after one hour into the event, I was pleasantly surprised by the impressive panel, their presentations, their arguments and the excellent standard that was maintained throughout the two-hour event. It is my first ever participation in an event on environment and I am glad that this has stirred my interest in the subject” Mrs Aasha Reddy, Indian supporter for Tibet, based in Chennai, India.

View Photographs below on Flickr.

visitors at TWA stall

young men signs the petition

young groups at the stall


man signs the petition


tibet_supporter_aasha_reddy and former staff tenzin palkyi



twa stall remain busy late into the night



CC_filmmaker Carrie with ITN Choedup

CC_Panel of experts

CC_Michael Buckley speaks

CC_participants discuss further

CC_tendor and wilson at TWA hall

CC_TWA staff at the literature desk

CC_Vijay Kranti speaks

CC_Panel of Expets at the Climate Conference

Global Day of Action,Durban

Tibetans advocate climate justice for Tibet at UN Climate conference

Tibetans advocate climate justice for Tibet at UN Climate conference

TWA delegates representing ‘Tibet Third Pole’ for COP-17 meeting completes the first week at Durban

Global Day of Action,DurbanDurban, December 5, 2011: Two members of TWA: Tenzin Woebum, head of Women’s Environment and Development Desk (WEDD) and Tenzin Dolma, Joint secretary, who represent Tibet Third Pole (T3P)[1], arrived in Durban on November 28 to take part in the two-week Conference of Parties (COP-17) meeting (November 28 – December 9), an undertaking of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Tibetan delegates joined NGOs from around the world at the UN’s climate change negotiations to advocate for equitable and durable solutions to the world’s growing climate-change crisis and significantly to represent Tibet at this momentous gathering of 11,810 delegates; 1409 Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), 86 Inter Governmental Organizations (IGOs) from 200 countries.
Funded substantially by TWA and partly by the Global Fund for Women, the Tibet presence was made possible by accreditation and letters of invitation accorded by Global Campaign for Climate Action and Oxfam, South Africa respectively both through the International Tibet Network, thus providing an alternative voice for Tibet at the biggest climate meeting.

Scientists have termed Tibet as the Third Pole [2] in terms of its storage of glacier ice and its status as a reservoir for the world’s largest rivers which feed one billion people in 10 downstream countries [3]in south East Asia

China’s response to the growing climate-change crisis in Tibet has been two-fold. First, China has begun building dozens of mega-dams and water diversion projects to capture and re-direct water from India and SE Asia to an increasingly thirsty China.

Second, China is forcibly removing all of Tibet’s 2.25 million nomadic herders, creating a human-rights crisis masquerading as conservation. This human-rights crisis comes despite the nomads’ traditional ecosystem knowledge and millennia of sustainable stewardship of Tibet’s grassland ecosystems, and despite scientific evidence that shows the nomads’ positive role in promoting ecosystem abundance, diversity, and resilience.

“The world has gathered in Durban to continue addressing the ethical challenge that climate change has created. Does a sovereign nation have a moral responsibility to act not only in its own self-interest, but also in the interest of people living beyond its borders? China’s actions in Tibet answer –no” states Tenzin Woebum, head of the Tibetan delegation.

T3P senses the need to educate governments and fellow NGOs on how the Chinese environmental policies in Tibet are in fact exacerbating damage to the environment, and how China is using climate change to justify controversial policies such as the coercive settlement of Tibetan nomads.

“We are awed by the robust presence of China at the COP-17 meeting and of how parties steer clear of annoying China, thus making it a huge challenge for us, Tibet third Pole delegates, to present the true side of Tibet’s environmental crisis. It is significant to have the Tibet voice heard in this magnanimous gathering of leaders and activists with vested interest. This is especially so when China is painting a different picture of Tibet. The fact that it is two Tibetan women battling to be the voice of global Tibet movement made our representation significant and challenging.” said Tenzin Dolma, TWA’s Joint Secretary.

But the NGOs, UN observers and the media have shown commendable interest in the Tibet story and the Tibetan delegation was successful in keeping the Tibet stakes high at the conference.

The environmental campaigns by Tibetan delegates include lobbying Government delegates with the six key demands (appended at the end of this release) and pressuring them to include Tibet in the negotiations. The women delegates have addressed press conferences, arranged for public talks on Tibet’s environment, made presentations on Tibet’s waters, dams and the plight of Tibetan nomads. The screening of Michael Buckley’s two films: ‘Meltdown in Tibet’ and ‘Nomads to Nobody’ was well received and the highlight of the campaign will be the December-7 public event and book launch of TWA’s publication ‘Purging the Treasure House: Displacement and the Status of the Tibetan Nomad.’

Tibet Third Pole presents Demands for Tibet in the age of Climate change

1. An immediate halt to all land uses that threaten the Tibetan Plateau’s ecosystems and ecosystem services, especially the plateau’s water resources;

2. An independent, international scientific assessment of the Tibetan Plateau’s ecosystems, ecosystem services, & land-use policies;

3. An immediate halt to the removal of Tibetan nomads from the grasslands;

4. The use of social & ecological assessment tools & data to determine appropriate human & ecosystem adaptation and mitigation strategies on behalf of sustainable land uses and landscape-scale conservation;

5. Transparent, inclusive, & participatory trans-boundary resource management & decision-making mechanisms that include all local and regional stakeholders whose lives depend on these ecosystem services, especially Tibet’s nomadic herders;

6. The creation of strategic conservation zones across the Tibetan Plateau as a way to enhance the health of ecosystem services & that involve and support the traditional livelihoods and sustainable land-use practices, both in Tibet and in downstream nations.

Photos from the conference can be viewed here:


Videos are made available here:


Press Contact:

Tenzin Woebum, Durban, South Africa: + 27 + 799079926

Email: info@tibet3rdpole.org / twawedd@gmail.com

[1] Tibet Third Pole (T3P) an international working group of Tibetans and Tibet supporters’ and was formed by the International Tibet Network in 2009 during the COP-15 summit at Copenhagen, in response to China’s threat to Tibetans and Asians alike. T3P seeks to build alliances and collaborations with scientists, governments, NGOs, and peoples across Asia whose fate and future depend on the ecosystem services that the Tibetan Plateau provides. Website is : www.tibet3rdpole.org

[2] Tibet is known as the Earth’s Third Pole because it holds more freshwater, stored as glacial ice, than any other place on Earth except the Arctic and Antarctic, the Tibetan Plateau is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Scientists are already warning of the disruption of vital ecosystem services, including water resources, as well as increasing risk of catastrophic floods, and impacts to the Indian monsoon, which provides vital rainfall to people from Pakistan to eastern China.

[3] India, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Pakistan