Tibet’s Rivers: Asia’s Lifeline

Nearly 2 billion people in Asia are dependent on Tibet’s rivers. Under Chinese occupation, Tibet’s rivers are being polluted, dammed and diverted with dire consequences for those living in the downstream countries.

Tibet, known as Water Tower of Asia, serves as the source of ten major Asian river systems flowing into some of the most densely ­populated countries: China, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan.

Tibet’s environment, particularly Tibet’s rivers, is a geostrategic concern for South and Southeast Asia has been raised both at high ­levels of the Indian government as well as in civil society with wide­ range coverage in the media.

SFT-India launched Tibet’s Rivers, Asia’s Lifeline Campaign in March 2015 to highlight the damming crisis on Tibet’s rivers, with particular focus on Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra. Our long-­term vision is to safeguard Tibet’s precious and fragile environment, especially the river systems upon which millions of people in Asia depend.

22nd march 2015: world water day

On 22 March 2015, over 100 Tibetans, Indian and foreign supporters observed World Water Day with a series of creative events to shine a light on China’s rampant environmental degradation of Tibet’s rivers and environment. Jointly organized by Tibetan Women’s Association and Students for a Free Tibet-India, Tibet activists performed a street theatre in Dharamsala, Tibetan Exile Capital protesting China’s exploitation of Tibet’s ecology and it’s negative impact on Asia. They held placards saying “Tibet Dies, Asia Dries”, “Be Strong India: Stand Up for Brahmaputra” and “Save Tibetan Rivers” TWA and SFT jointly submitted Letters of Concern to the Indian Prime Ministers Office, and Embassies of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in Delhi in the lead-up to World Water.

2016: Direct action : International day of Action for River

In 2016 Two of our staff visited Guwahati, Assam, and carried out a banner display action on March 14, 2016 International Day of Action for Rivers, which aims  spotlight China’s fast-paced mega-dam building projects in Tibet, especially yarlung Tsangpo.

we also did a Stories from the River video series.

Stories from the Rivers Video series:
Listen to Lachit Das share his observations on the health of the Brahmaputra river, downstream from Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet, in the first of our Tsangpo-Brahmaputra.
Manoj Kumar Das, a ferryman on the Brahmaputra in Guwahati, Assam shares his concerns on the state of the Brahmaputra downstream from Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet.
Listen to Bahniman Gogoi, from Dhemaji, Upper Assam, voice his concerns on the shrinking Brahmaputra, downstream from Yarlung Tsangpo.


2016: First International seminar conference: Damming crisis in Tibet: Threat to water security in Tibet

Pushing our campaign to the next phase in 2016 we conducted the first ever International Seminar to inter- nationalise the call for protecting Tibet’s rivers. With speakers from Bangladesh, Thailand, India and Tibet, we aim to build a network of civil society and environment stakeholders to collectively call for saving Tibet’s rivers through that seminar . 

2019: Second International Seminar Climate Crisis in Tibet: Rivers Under Threat in Asia

In the lead up to World Rivers Day 2019, and in the week of International Strike for Climate Change (20thSep-27th Sep), second International Seminar on Climate Crisis in Tibet: Rivers under threat in Asia at the India International Center, New Delhi. Academicians, activists, students, civil society members, and experts from various backgrounds attended this seminar. The Seminar is to mount intellectual discussion to address the concerns over man-made water projects along the Tibetan rivers which have a huge negative impact to the rivers and their irreversible implication to the Asian countries.

17th nov 2019: Climate run FOR Tibet

Tibetan Plateau “ Third Pole” is at the forefront when it comes to climate change. In collaboration with Tibet Policy Institute and other four NGOs, we organised a ‘Climate Run for Tibet’ in Dharamshala today demanding COP25 to put Climate Change in Tibet on its agenda in the upcoming climate conference in Spain from December 2, 2019 to December 1, 2019.

2020: Online Tibet Rivers talk series: Securing Tibet’s rivers: the Future of Asia

 SFT-India has initiated a river series talk for September 2020 to mark the World Rivers Day which falls on the 27th September 2020. Started on 1st September, it held 4 episodes of online talks on every Sunday and concluded with an online panel discussion on securing Tibet’s rivers by some prominent river activist and scholars. 

 We had six speakers give talks on various topics, for example, damming upper Mekong by Brain Eyler, extracting electricity and fish from upper Mekong by Gabriel Lafitte, Michael Buckley who authored book “meltdown in Tibet. , murder on Mekong, china’s mega dam and downstream impact, Tenpa G. Zamlha on twin landside on Drichu, China’s dam construction on Yarlung Tsangpo and its implication by Dr. Lobsang Yangtso and China’s national interest on Transboudary water resources by Dechen Palmo.

2021: Tibet River talk series: Tibet’s rivers, Asia’s Lifeline

This year it’s our fourth river talk series. Because of the ongoing Covid-19 situation, we played safe and organize the river talk series virtually through online livestream by marking the worlds rivers day we have invited three speakers to talk on various topics related to Tibet rivers in three consecutive days.

1st Day: 26th sept 2021: Transboundary rivers, space and ecology” by Dr. Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman.

2nd Day: 27th sept 2021: Inserting Tibet into Global Climate justice movement by Jyostna Sara George

3rd Day: 28th sept 2021: China’s great dam boom: A major assault on Tibet’s Rivers by Dr. Lobsang Yangtso