Tibetan community pushes back against plan to divert their water supply

Location of Chone County (credit RFA)
Location of Chone County (credit RFA)
Location of Chone County (credit RFA)
13th November 2018

The community in Chone County protested after local authorities announced their intentions to divert a nearby river

Residents of Se-Tsang Township in eastern Tibet have gathered to protest plans by local authorities to divert a nearby river.

The river is set to be diverted away from Se-Tsang Township, which is located in Chone County, Kanhlo Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and towards Hrin-Tsang Township, a majority Han Chinese community, in the nearby Bha-Tse County.

Se-Tsang Township is a rural area, composed of a mix of nomadic Tibetans and farmers, who are heavily dependent on the nearby river as a source of clean drinking water. They also use the water for farming and for their cattle.

The announcement was made on Saturday 10 November, when Sangshang, a local leader in Hrin-Tsang Township, arrived at Se-Tsang Township accompanied by a large number of Chinese officials and police.

In video footage obtained by Free Tibet’s research partner Tibet Watch, a voice can be heard saying: “Look! Look! They are here today to subjugate us... subjugating our water. Such a huge number of Chinese vehicles are here. These Chinese people are here seizing our water ... Akor Sangshang is leading it”.

Sangshang informed the residents that the water would be diverted to Hrin-Tsang Township. He also announced that anyone planning to resist this order could be arrested.

A second video shows an official asking seven people from Se-Tsang Township to come forward to represent the township and to discuss the water diversion project. In response, a voice in Tibetan can be heard saying: “Water is an issue for the entire village, not just a concern of few. Whether few or all, the word and demand would be same”. In the same videos, lots of vehicles and officials can be seen at the site of the protest.


Residents launched their protest the day after this announcement. The protest has been accompanied by an online petition, entitled A tearful appeal from the heart of residents of Se Tsangkhog. In one section, the petition asks the local authorities: "Have you considered what we and our cattle should drink if our water is diverted to another township and county? […] Why we don't have the rights over territory and village which is ours?”

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