More animals, fewer sandstorms as Tibet greens

Aerial photo taken on June 27, 2020 shows a shelter forest along the Yarlung Zangbo River in Shannan, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Zhang Jingpin)

by Liu Xinyong, Lyu Qiuping, Zhai Yongguan

Dondrup, 42, still has an article he wrote over two decades ago in high school about his aspirations.

“My grandma told me that 30 years ago, there were forests all around my village, and there were bears, deer and other wild animals,” said Dondrup, born in a village in the city of Shannan, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

Due to the destruction of vegetation, not only the number of wild animals decreased but villagers had to travel far away to get firewood, the Tibetan wrote.

“With less vegetation on the mountains, there will surely be fewer animals. Thus, I decided that in the future I want to become a forestry worker to protect our forests,” the letter reads.

His dream has come true. In 2010, he began working in Shannan’s forestry and grassland bureau, where he takes part in organizing tree-planting activities every year.

With continuous government investment and unremitting efforts from various sides, Tibetans are enjoying a constantly improving environment, and Tibet has become one of the regions with the best ecological environment in the world.

Samten Norbu, head of Shannan’s forestry and grassland bureau, said that after the tree-planting efforts over the past decades, the city has built a 160-km green belt along the Yarlung Zangbo River.

“The environment has improved, dusty days have decreased year by year, and people’s sense of happiness, gain and accomplishment is on the rise,” said Samten Norbu.

Tibet had invested a total of 81.4 billion yuan (12.55 billion U.S. dollars) in the area by the end of last year. In 2020, the forest coverage reached 12.3 percent, and the comprehensive vegetation coverage of natural grassland grew to 47 percent, according to a white paper released in May.

The improvements are witnessed and also contributed to by Paljor, 62.

Since 2004, Paljor has turned more than 400 mu (about 27 hectares) of barren and desert-like land in Shannan into a nursery garden by planting over 70 types of trees.

Under the support of the local government, his nursery garden now has an annual output of about 4 million yuan, employing more than 70 full-time workers.

As the environment greens, wild animals are returning. In Paljor’s nursery, roe deers are seen playing in the woods. He recalled the deers were first spotted in the garden around 2010, and there are also foxes and birds.

“Every afternoon, different kinds of colorful birds will gather in my garden, and I can hear their merry chirps,” Paljor said with pride.

The biodiversity improvement came as wild animals and their habitats have been better protected. The population of the endangered black-necked cranes has increased from no more than 3,000 in the 1990s to more than 8,000 now, and the population of Tibetan antelopes is around 300,000, the white paper said.

“Thanks to favorable government policies, the vegetation protection in my hometown is getting better and better. As a forestry worker, I’m proud,” Dondrup said.