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Voluntary Association for the Protection of the Environment of Domed Anchung Sengge Namzong

Abstract

In 2003, the 1347 Tibetan residents of Tserangding, a cluster of 13 hamlets in Gonjo County, Chamdo prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, China established a community organization called the"Voluntary association for the protection of the environment of Domed Anchung Sengge Namzong.” Gonjo County is an area extraordinarily rich in biodiversity, and ishome to endangered and threatened species such as the black necked crane, blue sheep, musk deer, gazelle, lynx, fox, brown bear, etc. The community association focused on environmental conservation with and through the preservation and enrichment of Tibetan culture, which is closely interlinked with Tibetan Buddhism.  The association lasted until 2009.
           
The villagers of the association initiated and implemented, by themselves, a broad range of activities to protect the environment, including planting more than half a million trees on their own initiative, patrolling and preventing outsiders from coming to village lands to hunt and fish, monitoring wildlife numbers, cleaning up garbage, and environmental education activities including village environmental essay contests, and environmental skits and games at their yearly summer festival.  One of the groups' projects, which combined the goals of environmental protection and Tibetan education, was an environmental journal that was produced for six years.  This yearly journal was a compilation of Tibetan language selections about the environment ranging from quotes from religious texts to news from the internet, to translations of Chinese law, to the villagers ' own essays, which is then distributed to the villagers to raise awareness and knowledge of the environment.  By making important contemporary issues available in Tibetan, the journal not only reached an audience that was otherwise unable to access information about the environment, but also encouraged a view of Tibetan as being a suitable and useful language for the modern world.
           
The association members believe that the concept of environmental protection is not new to Tibetans. Rather, it has been deeply embedded in Tibetan culture for centuries, long before the modern term “environmental protection” was coined. They state, “we didn’t have a separate term, ‘environmental protection,’ but the things we did had that effect.” These were embedded within Buddhist terms referring to the interdependency of “the container and the contained,” snod bcud rten ‘brel, as well as ri rgya sngon khrims, referring to practices of sealing off particular areas, usually sacred mountains, from various uses ranging from hunting and mining to livestock grazing, as well as to specific regulations against hunting. Association members frequently stated that environmental protection is mixed with culture and religion, that they were inseparable, “like blood flowing in a body.” 

Religion

Tibetan Buddhism

Geographic Location

Chamdo, Tibet Autonomous Region, China

Duration of Project 2003-2009
History

The founder of the organization, Rinchen Samdrup, was initially inspired by observing the environmental destruction of the local sacred mountain, including deforestation and littering, in 1997.  After being encouraged in their activities by the visit of another Tibetan environmental group, the villagers voluntarily entered into an association and implemented a set of written rules and regulations to protect wildlife, including fines for fishing, hunting, and logging. The association sought to register as a formal environmental association, but were unable to.

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