The Snowland Great Rivers Environmental Protection Association: the first environmental NGO in the Tibetan plateau

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bf096b63f6246b60efd7e482e9f81a4c500fa26fThe Snowland Great Rivers Environmental Protection Association (SGR) is the first environmental NGO in Qinghai province. It registered in Yushu (Qinghai) in 2001, and became a provincial environmental NGO in 2008. This year the Sanjiangyuan National Park officially became its professional supervisory unit. The Sanjiangyuan (literally “source of three rivers”) is the area of the Tibetan plateau where the sources of Asia’s three great rivers, the Yangtze, the Yellow river and the Mekong are located. The SGR mainly focuses on water source protection, zero waste and rural construction, and promotes a mode of natural resource management and protection mainly based on communities.

Over the past eighteen years, the SGR has cultivated 75 local leaders of rural environmental conservation. These leaders each represent a community, and they in turn are leading 912 local environmental protection volunteers. Following their long experience of social work, the SGR recognized that it is important to emphasize the cultivation of local leaders. It is hard for ordinary local people to make use of their ability to work independently within a project, but local leaders can help citizens to cultivate such abilities, and promote long term and sustainable development within communities.

Ganda Village is the source of the drinking water sources for all the 200,000 people in the Yushu area, and SGR has worked there for eight years. The village has more than 370 households, but only 95,000 mu of pastureland. The SGR helped them to divide the pastureland into 23 community protected areas and established natural resource management committees. Since Ganda Village has a long history of equestrian shows, the SGR started to promote an “ecological caravan” in 2016. The project is based on sustainable development, and it aims at improving local people’s consciousness of ecological protection and self-confidence in their own culture, and introducing the local nomadic culture to tourists.

Another example of this organization’s work can be found in the Dejia community, a small community also located in the Sanjiangyuan area. The community used to have an ecological problem due to the disposal of domestic waste. However, with the help of the SGR and the respected local meditation master Kanbu, it became the first zero-waste community on the Tibetan plateau. Whether it is shepherds, monks or tourists, nobody is permitted to throw away plastic garbage in the surroundings.