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15:10 Dec 31 2009

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English>>Tibet Online
Bewilderments, hopes of ecological migrants from Sanjiangyuan area
09:48, December 30, 2009  

Resident of New Qumalai Village Daiji sorts cloth for making Tibetan robes, on Oct. 29. Living in New Qumalai Village in the suburbs of Golmud City, Qinghai Pronvice, are 1,700 ecological migrants from the Sanjiangyuan area. (Xinhua Photo)

With the undertaking of China's largest ecological protection project, 50,000 Tibetan herders have left the Sanjiangyuan area, northwest China's Qinghai Province, and moved into urban areas.

Having accustomed to their nomadic life, these herders are encountering many problems such as how to remove the language barrier and find jobs.

But they are trying hard to get used to their urban life for the sake of the environmental protection of the Sanjiangyuan area and the future of their children.

From herders to oppidans

The Sanjiangyuan area, located in the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, southern Qinghai Province, is where people live mainly on animal husbandry. It is the origin of Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers -- the major ones in China.

The area's ecological environment has deteriorated and its water conservation function has degraded in the past 30 years as a result of global warming and frequent human activities.

To save the environment, the Chinese Government launched a protection project in 2005, involving returning grazing land to grasslands, restricting livestock breeding, moving local herders to other areas and controlling desertification.

Tudeng Cairang, a 44-year-old Tibetan herder, moved to the Kunlun Ethnic Culture Village, Golmud, which was built by the local government, with 1,700 other Tibetan herders three years ago.

"In the past, my family had 80 cows, 200 sheep and a 667-ha pastureland and I could earn 30,000 yuan RMB (4,392 U.S. dollars) per year," recalling his previous life, Tudeng seemed a little bit yearning.

Now, Tudeng, serving as the leader of the Villagers' Group of the Village Committee, lives in an 80-sq m house with three rooms and a yard.

All the households of the village have been offered a house for free by the local government.

Tudeng said in broken Han language, "When we were in the grazing area, our own cows and sheep could meet our needs of eating meat, drinking milk and heating, and we didn't have to spend extra money on other items."

However, having moved to the urban area, he found that there were so many things that he has to spend on.

"We have to buy all the living items by ourselves. Since I haven't found a job, my family of six depend on the annual 6,000-yuan subsidy granted by the local government and our savings, which are running out."

Since most of the immigrated Tibetan herdsmen can neither speak the Han language nor have any skill, it is hard for them to find a job.

Tudeng said, "The language barrier is one factor, but what's more worse is that we are uneducated and don't have skills."

But some others have kept pace with the urban life and shifted themselves to oppidans. Tudeng added, "In my village, those smart and skillful people have been living a good life."

Edi, 33, is one of those people. His wife said contentedly, "Compared with our previous life in the grazing land, our life here is much better."

Also accustomed to the urban life is Gacai's family. Since Gacai and his wife are good at sewing and needling, they make not only Tibetan costumes for their village's residents, but also ethnic costumes for the Mongolians living in the neighboring areas.

Tudeng has taken the literacy course held by the local government and is trying to find a job. He said, "The Central Government has offered us houses, electricity and tap water. Our future life depends on our own efforts."
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