ANI Photo | China sourcing Tibet’s groundwater, springwater and selling it in plastic bottles: Report

China is sourcing Tibet’s groundwater and springwater and selling them across China in plastic bottles, Tibet Rights Collective reported.
China is the biggest plastic polluter on the planet, as per the news report. Bottled water from Tibet is regarded as most clean and pristine in China, Michael Buckley, author of “Meltdown in Tibet” said in the news report. Although bottled water targets Chinese users it increasingly also targets Tibetans themselves as Tibet’s once-pristine rivers are no longer trustworthy.
Some portions of rivers have become dangerous due to the pollution caused by Chinese mining ventures, with yaks dying from tainted water. It is a case of Chinese entrepreneurs stealing groundwater from Tibet and selling it back to Tibetans, who previously got it for free, Tibet Rights Collective reported. The nomads of Tibet who were once self-sustaining have been reduced to begging.
The nomads have been forcibly removed from their traditional grazing lands and settled in concrete ghettoes to make way for so-called ‘nature reserves.’ The nomads here are entirely dependent on the Chinese government’s subsidies which go primarily toward buying necessities like yak milk, cheese, tea and bottled water.
Except for the tea, all of these food items were available for free to nomad yak herders. The nomad yak-herders would camp near rivers, lakes and other water sources to fetch their own water, Tibet Rights Collective reported. Now, they need to buy water that Chinese entrepreneurs are bottling by tapping into Tibet’s abundant groundwater and spring water.
Tibet’s reserves of groundwater were never exploited until Tibet came under Chinese control. And not on any scale until 2006 with the beginning of the railway from Golmud to Lhasa which makes the export of Tibet’s bottled water to Shanghai and Beijing economical, as per the news report.
Starting out in 2006 with a few water bottlers on the plateau, the number of enterprises increased to almost 30 operators by 2014. In 2014, Tibet’s regional government signed contracts with 16 major companies to expand the water bottling industry. The target is to produce 10 million tonnes of bottled water by 2025, as per the news report.
As per the news report, Chinese water bottlers in Tibet are poorly regulated and they rarely give details regarding sustainability and environmental impact. It is not known what impact this extensive groundwater extraction has on surrounding flora and fauna. It is known that groundwater and springwater are being extracted at highly unsustainable levels, Michael Buckley said in the report.
Groundwater is considered a non-renewable resource as it can take hundreds of years to regenerate. Some water bottlers are operating within the boundaries of the so-called nature reserves, like the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve. In addition to the direct impact on Tibet’s groundwater and springwater, there is an infrastructure impact to consider.
Chinese state-owned firms are conducting mining extraction in Tibet and its rivers are blocked by Chinese mega dams, the report said. Groundwater extraction for bottled water makes matters much worse and Tibetans sight little benefit from this water extraction.
Tibet’s bottled water comes from remote pristine locations and Tibet brands appeal to wealthy buyers as a status symbol and they are sold for up to three times the cost of other brands in China.
In order to identify that bottled water is sourced from Tibet, the north face of Mount Everest has emerged as an iconic logo. Around 12 brands have a graphic or Mount Everest picture, indicating that the mountain’s glaciers are being used for production, Tibet Rights Collective reported.
Bottled water is not the only industry that is taking Tibet’s groundwater and springwater at a rapid rate. Tibet Water Resources Ltd, the maker of Tiandi Tibet Green Barley Beer, makes use of Tibetan barley and springwater sourced near Lhasa. Another Tibetan-barley-based beer is Lhasa Beer, as per the news report.
As per the Tibet Rights Collective report, China is the world’s largest consumer of bottled water. In the past 20 years, there have been a number of cases where people in Chinese cities have been stranded without water for several weeks due to industrial accidents or effluents, agricultural runoff and sewage. It implies that people overnight became fully reliant on bottled water.

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