Tibetans become forest guardians
Lharong Jangchu patrols the forests in his village with other men every week with a knife bundled around their waists to protect themselves from being attacked by wild animals. The team recognizes pine trees from the red numbers on them painted by the Forestry Administration of Diqing Tibetan autonomous prefecture in northwest Yunnan province.
His fellow patrolmen would report to Lharong Jangchu after counting the marks to ensure there is no illegal logging. “Years ago, patrolmen would pretend to be dead by lying breathless on the ground when encountering black bears. It worked in most cases, but some men were hurt because they hardly could hold their breath. Now that horrifying scenario seems far away from us,” he said.
In addition, the deputy head of the forestry station of Nyishi Township asummons villagers to a meeting each month to remind them that any behavior is prohibited to take kindles into the forests.
“Villagers are allowed to pick up dry firewood when the trees have a natural death, and they are able to dig out more pine mushrooms as the forests grow,” said Lharong Jangchu. Villagers also grow valuable plants such as fungus in the forest to earn extra income while logging is stringently constrained, officials at the Diqing Forestry Administration said.
Lharong Jangchu is one of the Tibetan people who have stepped up to safeguard their forests and develop valuable plants to compensate for lost income from logging. Local people found that the protection brought them more enduring benefits and enhanced their enthusiasm to cultivate environmentfriendly industries.
Now many villagers understand that the mushrooms will die if the forests are damaged. If I cut the trees, it means I burn the bank that I deposit cash in.” SUMWANG DRIVER IN SHANGRI-LA
Among the most diverse places in terms of local flora and fauna are Diqing and the prefecture of Nyingchi in Tibet autonomous region. It had functioned as a logging area as suppliers exported wood to other places around the country for years. But now things have changed. Local officials and residents realized the importance of being careful with the nature and forests around them after excessive logging in the 1980s. Reduced logging
The patrol teams also educate villagers on the importance of keeping the forest intact. The pine mushrooms must grow under trees as the leaves can cover them from direct sunshine, said Lharong Jangchu.
“Now many villagers understand that the mushrooms will die if the forests are damaged. If I cut the trees, it means I burn the bank that I deposit cash in,” said Sumwang, a 26-year-old driver in Shangri-La, the capital of Diqing.
Many Tibetan houses are built with wood and the size of the center pillars in their house represents social status and the wealth of the family. Years ago, Tibetan families would stay deep in the forest for one or two months to log giant trees, at least 2 meters in diameter, said Sumwang.
Between the late 1970s and early 1990s, Diqing cut trees to produce about 100 million cubic meters of wood that was transported to other regions in the country. To control logging, each household in Diqing can apply to the township and the county governments to get a logging permit as each family can cut 30 cubic meters of trees to build houses within 15 years.
The patrol teams have been widely dispersed in forestdense areas to effectively reduce logging. In Nyingchi, local governments have professional teams to take up the responsibility of protecting the forest as every village has an organized team. Currently, Nyingchi has 28,000 rural patrolmen to safeguard the forests.
“There are 16 households in Gongdrong village. Each day four people from four households take turns to safeguard the forest that lies behind their village,” said Yangyen, village chief of Gongdrong village, the Nyingchi prefecture.
Limiting logging is an efficient approach to protecting the forest in Nyingchi prefecture. Annual commercial logging has been reduced from 70,000 cubic meters in 2005 to 50,000 cubic meters at present, according to the Nyingchi Forestry Administration.
Commercial logging is mainly for building houses for farmers and herders in the villages. In 2013, Nyingchi budgeted 43,928 cubic meters of wood for housing projects, and the actual consumption was only 5,358 cubic meters.
In order to reduce wood consumption, the government promotes new energies such as solar power, liquefied gas, and biomass fuel produced by straw and forestry waste. An average of about one million cubic meters of wood consumption is decreased annually, said Tashi Tondrub, director of Nyingchi Forestry Administration.
He Xiangcheng, deputy director of the Diqing Forestry Administration, said the forests produced higheconomic output after being placed under protection. Diqing earned 850 million yuan (US$136.96 million) from 2006 to 2011 and the number increased to 1.6 billion yuan in 2012, accounting for 14 percent of the prefecture’s GDP, said He.
Wu Qiongsan (right), director of the management station of Diqing’s public forests, checks out ill trees with patrolmen in Nyishi township in Shangri-La county, capital of Diqing Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Southwest China’s Yunnan province.