New en­vi­ron­men­tal mea­sures aid pil­grims’ progress

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By LUO WANGSHU in Ngari pre­fec­ture, and PALDEN NY­IMA and DA QIONG in Lhasa

Meng Fan­hua be­lieves that the great­est achieve­ment of his life was com­plet­ing a two­day walk around the base of Mount Kailash, a holy moun­tain in Ngari pre­fec­ture, in western Ti­bet, last year.

“It was ex­haust­ing phys­i­cally, but I have never felt bet­ter than af­ter that jour­ney. It was truly the great­est ad­ven­ture of my life — and the most valu­able one,” the 50-year-old painter from Liaon­ing prov­ince said of his pil­grim­age.

Meng un­der­took the ad­ven­ture last year, one of the 470,000 pil­grims who vis­ited the moun­tain dur­ing the Chi­nese Year of the Horse.

Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar, also in Ngari, are sa­cred sites to fol­low­ers of Ti­betan Bud­dhism, the Bon re­li­gion, Hin­duism and Jain­ism.

For pil­grims, cir­cling ei­ther site is a great honor and the ful­fill­ment of a life­long de­sire. Ti­betan Bud­dhists be­lieve that fea­tures such as moun­tains and lakes are liv­ing en­ti­ties and are born in a cer­tain year of the an­i­mal zodiac.

If a pil­grim cir­cles Kailash in the Year of Horse, the year the moun­tain is be­lieved to have been born, it is a dou­bly aus­pi­cious act and equal to 12 rev­o­lu­tions in other years. They be­lieve the jour­ney will wash away the sins of one life­time and bring pros­per­ity.

The ris­ing num­ber of tourists has led the lo­cal govern­ment to im­ple­ment mea­sures to guar­an­tee the pil­grims’ safety, ful­fill their religious needs and pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.

Last year, the num­ber of pil­grims soared to about 470,000, a rise of more than 50 per­cent from 2013, with 30,000 hail­ing from neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, such as Nepal and In­dia, ac­cord­ing to the Ngari govern­ment.

“It was so crowded. You could see pil­grims ev­ery few me­ters. Peo­ple fol­lowed the same path, some Ti­betans kow­towed, some walked,” said Meng. This year he plans to fully cir­cle Nam Co Lake, about 117 km northwest of Lhasa, the cap­i­tal of Ti­bet, be­cause this is the Year of the Sheep, when the lake is said to have been born.

Last year,


lo­cal govern­ment in­vested more than 8 mil­lion yuan ($1.25 mil­lion) to es­tab­lish tem­po­rary sites for the dis­posal of house­hold garbage to pro­vide bet­ter ser­vices for trav­el­ers and to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, ac­cord­ing to Champa Tsultrim, head of the Ngari En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Bureau.

“We also in­creased the num­ber of trash­cans along­side Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar to guar­an­tee one ev­ery 3 to 5 kilo­me­ters,” he said.

It’s il­le­gal to dig land­fills for garbage dis­posal in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity of the moun­tain or lake, so tem­po­rary sites are used to store the waste, which is col­lected ev­ery other week and then trans­ported to Pu­rang county, about 100 km away from the moun­tain and 35 km from the lake.

To en­sure the en­vi­ron­ment re­mains un­spoiled, no in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity is al­lowed in the area, Champa Tsultrim said.

Last year, the lo­cal forestry bureau es­tab­lished a hot­line to al­low lo­cal res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to re­port be­hav­ior that could re­sult in pol­lu­tion, such as dump­ing garbage or fish­ing in the lake, but also to alert the au­thor­i­ties to the plight of sick or in­jured an­i­mals.

If a call con­trib­utes di­rectly to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, the caller is re­warded ac­cord­ingly, the bureau said.

Sev­eral parts of the lake have been set aside for pil­grims whose be­liefs re­quire them to bathe in the wa­ters, and wardens keep a sharp eye out for any­one us­ing de­ter­gents or soap that could dam­age the ecosys­tem.

“We have es­tab­lished six mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions along the lake and hired lo­cal res­i­dents to over­see en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion,” Ny­ima Phuntsok, head of Ngari’s forestry bureau, said.

Con­tact the writ­ers through lu­owang­shu@chi­nadaily.

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