Home Articles At the brink of extinction; the Tibetan nomads

At the brink of extinction; the Tibetan nomads


For more than 4000 years nomads have grazed herds of yaks and mountain sheep over the vast grasslands of Tibet.

The herds are intrinsically tied up with the identity of the nomads and their very survival in the harsh, high-altitude environment of the Tibetan Plateau: the animals provide not only meat and milk, but their skins are dried and used to insulate tents.

Dung is also dried and used to heat the tents and provide fuel for cooking. And wool and fur from the animals are used to clothe the nomads.

images (1)The nomads have forged an intuitive understanding of how to best utilise their herds and to live in harmony with the dizzyingly high-altitude environment. In the short summer months they move their herds over vast distances, grazing their yaks on rich grasslands; and in the long winter months they travel similarly long distances to sell their animals in market to raise money for medicine and to pay for their children’s education. The nomads have long recognised that it is only by practising seasonal migration through traditionally unfenced grassland areas that habitation of the Plateau could be made sustainable, with fragile soils being allowed to recover from one year to the next.

But after more than 4000 years of sensitive stewardship of the fragile, high-altitude environment of the Tibetan Plateau, the nomads’ unique culture is being threatened with destruction as increasingly rapacious Chinese policies seek to drive the nomads from their homelands for political and economic reasons.

images (2)Ever since the invasion and consequent occupation of Tibet, China has increasingly seen this vast land as an opportunity to further create employment for the millions of Chinese who seek jobs in the booming eastern-seaboard industries. Therefore, according to a recent study at least 2.25 million nomads have been resettled in permanent brick houses. The government’s forced resettlement policies have violated the fundamental rights of the Tibetan herders whose very life style which has been to live harmoniously with the environment has been threatened. Not surprisingly, independent foreign journalists and human rights activists have recorded testimonies of thousands of nomads who tell stories of forced and deliberate policies which force them off their ancestral pasturelands into these so-called buildings where it looks beautiful from outside but it is truly unsustainable and difficult reports many nomads.

The nomad’s life is not just another story in the news; it’s a story of the noble people whose lives are simple, beautiful and above all it’s the path their ancestors chose to live in a harsh terrain on the roof of the world with immense respect for the nature. Normally, outsiders define Tibetans as having a jolly, hardworking and honest character which is also the national character of the Tibetans in general. Our hope lies in their dreams and inspiration since we, Tibetans who live in exile are actually a small part of the puzzle whereas the Tibetans living in Tibet are really standing firm in the face of adversity and preserving their traditional and rich culture, language and religion.

In our modest and humblest way, let us all raise our voices to stop this outrageous act from a powerful nation lacking moral character.