Short footage of the Tibetan protest in Derge county against a hydropower station and their relocation because of it.

Hundreds of Tibetans staged protests outside the Derge (Chinese: Dege) county government’s office in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, on Feb. 14, 2024, calling for halt to a proposed hydropower station construction in their area, and to withdraw the order for relocation of Tibetans from the surrounding area because of this.

Videos of the Tibetans’ protest were being circulated in the social media. A large group of Tibetans are seen peacefully protesting in front of a government office building and officials (mostly in civilian clothes) can be seen stopping the crowd from moving forward. Voice of America Tibetan reported that the Derge county officials informed the protesting Tibetans that nothing could be done on this at their level.

According to a source in exile, who is from Derge, the Tibetans who were protesting were from Wento town (Wentuo Zhen) in Derge county who were being asked to relocate to another place near Moshoe bridge in the same county. The exact location of Moshoe bridge could not be ascertained, but the source said some houses have already been built there to house the people.

Voice of America Tibetan service reported that the hydropower station was the Kamtok (Gangtuo) Hydropower Station. A posting about the protest on Chinese social media outlet Weibo also identified it as being Kamtok. ICT could not get independent confirmation, but this particular station is located over the Drichu River in the nearby Kamtok Township, Jomda (Jiangda) County, Chamdo (Changdu) City, TAR. Following the protest, one social media posting said the authorities have taken down the video circulating on Weibo. Radio Free Asia Tibetan reports that following the protests, Chinese authorities increased security measures and have been trying to identify protest organizers and participants, two sources inside Tibet said.

Several monasteries and dozens of villages in two townships in the county face the threat of relocation, according to Tibetan language media reports.

The International Campaign for Tibet is deeply concerned about the apparent disregard of local Tibetan’s rights and the threat of relocation, connected to the construction of the hydropower station. ICT is calling on the Chinese authorities to respect the rights of peaceful protesters and to refrain from using violence or resort to arbitrary detention of those involved. Moreover, ICT is urging the international community to press on the Chinese government to respect international human rights standards.

The Chinese government continues to pursue blind and commercial infrastructure projects in Tibet that are designed and implemented without regard for environmental impacts or local community concerns. These projects, which include rail roads, highways, and power grids, combined with resource extraction projects such as hydropower dams and mining create economic and environmental costs that disproportionally impact Tibetans, ICT said.

Tibetan water security

Tibet is home to one-fifth of the world’s freshwater supply. Glacial runoff from it forms rivers in almost every country across South and Southeast Asia, with an estimated 1.8 billion people dependent on this water’s healthy, unimpeded flow.

The integrity of Tibet’s ecology is critical to the Tibetan’ people’s way of life and directly contributes to the stability and economic wellbeing of downstream countries in South and Southeast Asia.

However, large-scale water diversion projects and hydropower development are having dramatic downstream consequences, including lack of access to freshwater, economic disruption, and negative impacts on downstream ecosystems.