Logging of natural forests in Dege and Baiyu County, Sichuan, China

Villagers protest rampant logging activities and timber extraction in Sichuan's Dege county as part of the "Tibet Herdmen's Resettlement Plan". Eventually villagers occupied the loggers camp and prevented further extraction.


Description
In 2009, the local People’s Government of Sichuan decided on three projects to improve the livelihoods of the Tibetan Population. Among them, the Tibetan Herdsmen’s Settlement Plan with an investment of 18 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion) in the four years from 2009 to 2012. The plan aimed to provide fixed housing and community centres in the villages for 480,000 members of 100,000 nomadic and semi-nomadic herding families. [1]

According to an announcement of the provincial forestry bureau in accordance with the county’s village Party, six locations had been allocated where timber would be extracted and provided for settlement projects. But the bureau lacked to provide information on where these locations are and what quantities of timber would be extracted. This was considered as one of the drivers for the destruction of the forests, however, of the homes built or being built, very few are all-timber constructions. [2]

In early 2010, local villagers had noticed workers turning up in the valleys of Dege County, in Sichuan's Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Without any notice the workers started felling the trees with chainsaws and transport them out of the forest on trucks. Once the trees were removed, the mudslides of steep and unstable mountainsides would cause road blockings or result in flash floods. Under the impression, that the timber would be used to build houses for the poor in the region, the villagers had accepted the logging at first. It soon became apparent that this wasn’t the case. Only some of the timber was being used to provide housing for nomadic families. It seemed that local Chinese officials were using the construction of nomad settlements as an excuse to break the ban on logging in the region. [3] As a reaction, concerned residents from the villages Puma, Dama, and Yuba formed a grassroots movement to protect their forests from further arbitrary destruction. In June 2010, they stormed the camps of the loggers, sabotaging the chainsaws, chasing away the workers and occupying the camps. The villagers then installed simple timber checkpoints at the entrance to the forest and erected a crude roadblock. They self-organised shifts of guarding the checkpoints, by sending residents from their village to manage the checkpoint, with groups of three taking shifts and preventing logging. [4]

At the end of 2010, environmental activist Wang Wuzhi discovered that large areas of natural forest were being felled in Dege and Baiyu counties in Garze prefecture. Most of the trees chopped down were firs and spruce firs, with trunks measuring 40 to 80 centimetres in diameter. Some even reached a metre in diameter and were more than 20 metres tall, some of the felled trees were more than 100 years old. Because of their position on the thin soil of this high-altitude cold-temperate zone’s steep slopes, it will be difficult to replace them with new plantings. There are plenty of newly planted cedar saplings – but they were on level ground, not on the cleared slopes. According to Greenpeace, the natural forests in western Sichuan are the best preserved in China and are home to rare and endangered animals, including bears, leopards, white-lipped deer and white-eared pheasant. The felling destroys their habitat. Under the protection of local people, the numbers of white-eared pheasant has recovered in recent years, but their survival is now threatened again by the fragmentation of their habitat. [5] The lyrics of a local folk song say: “Without the forest there’s no grasslands, without the grasslands there’s no yaks, without the yaks, there’s no us.”

Followed by the bold action of the villagers and the unprecedented logging actions in the region, the co-founder of the Green Beagle Chinese environmental organisation published a report on the situation on the prominent environmental website chinadialogue.net. [2] On March 18, 2011, Greenpeace’s “forest crime unit” arrived on the scene and saw for themselves the ongoing destruction of forests at Babanggou and Maiqugou in Dege, and Dengqugou on the county border between Dege and Baiyu. “All along the road you see ‘Natural Forest Reserve’ signs. ”Through their Sina Weibo account (the Chinese pendant to twitter) Greenpeace China also reported on the situation and the rampant logging taking place in the Garze region . [6] Villagers had reported them that some 20 truck-loads of timber were being taken away each day, some of it out of the Garze region.

Greenpeace sent their report to the SFA (State Forestry Administration, later as part of National Forestry and Grassland Administration since March 2018), and a forestry official from Chengdu was sent to the scene to investigate. Meanwhile, the team also suggested to the SFA that before the results of that investigation were published, a moratorium should be called on logging in Baiyu and Dege, while the SFA examine the scale of felling in the area and determine how to ensure sustainable logging. In response to Greenpeace’s request for details on the timber used in the settlement project, Sichuan Forestry Bureau said that it did not have the information and suggested consulting with the local forestry officials. However, the Garze forestry authorities said the information was a “state secret” and could not be revealed. However, other documents rule that “felling is to be made public”, with the authorities to “make public the locations, area and methods of felling listed on the license, and accept social supervision.” [2]

The villagers managed to stop the logging for at least one year, however, it is unclear whether the logging was permanently halted. According to SFA, China has completely stopped commercial harvesting of natural forests in 2017. [7]
Basic Data
NameLogging of natural forests in Dege and Baiyu County, Sichuan, China
CountryChina
ProvinceSichuan
SiteGarze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific CommoditiesTimber
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn 2009, Sichuan Province decided to implement the three major actions of “improving the production and life of the Tibetan people” to further improve the living standards of the Tibetan people. Among them, the Tibetan Herdsmen’s settlement Plan. It was decided to invest 18 billion yuan in the four years from 2009 to 2012.[1]
Project Area (in hectares)unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationunknown
Start Date01/03/2010
Relevant government actors-State Forestry Administration (SFA)

-Sichuan Forestry Bureau

-Sichuan Provincial Party Committee

-People's Government of Sichuan Province
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters-Green Beagle Environmental Institute(达尔问环境研究所,www.bjep.org.cn ; https://weibo.com/greenbeagle //The Green Beagle Institute is a formally registered NGO in Beijing, China, which focuses on environment protection including environment impact monitoring, environmental investigations, public dissemination of environmental knowledge etc.)

-Greenpeace (www.greenpeace.org)

-Forest Guardian([email protected])
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Sabotage
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Other Environmental impacts, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Otherlandslides
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Outcome
Project StatusUnknown
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseProject temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The villagers managed to stop the logging for at least one year, however, it is unclear whether the logging was permanently halted.
Sources and Materials
Links

[3] Saving the Trees of Mesho - Presentation from the Tibet Action Institute. (accessed on 28.01.2019)
[click to view]

[1] Article in the Economy Daily Newspaper about the new "Tibetan Herdmen's Settlement Plan" (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

[5]川西天然林遭砍伐 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

[7]中国国家林业局:中国已全面停止天然林商业性采伐 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

[4] Material concerns in Sichuan (1) - Article from 22.06.2011 published on chinadialogue.net. (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

[2] Saving Sichuan's Trees - Article from 25.05.2011 published on chinadialogue.net. (accessed on 28.01.2019)
[click to view]

[6]Greenpeace Forest Guardian reported on its Weibo (2011-04-14)川西毁林实地调查结束,#森林犯罪调查小组#的工作远未画上句号。3月23日,绿色和平向国家林业局发去简短情况介绍信。3月29日,绿色和平详细调查详细报告递交国家林业局。国家林业局接信后立即调派#驻成都专员办#组成调查小组前往德格等县调查。 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

Media Links

[8] Forest Guardian Campaign by Greenpeace on Sina Weibo
[click to view]

[9]Sina Weibo of Greenpeace’s “forest crime unit” (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

川西借牧民定居工程之名大量毀林 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

Other Documents

Deforestration on site Source: https://www.weibo.com/u/2033008942
[click to view]

Timber from the natural forest Source: https://weibo.com/1792419723/3f4DcD6eFS
[click to view]

Trucks transporting wood out of Gardze https://weibo.com/1792419723/3f4DcD6eFS
[click to view]

Natural forest trees felled alongside the river Source: https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/4311-Saving-Sichuan-s-trees
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEnvJustice, ICTA-UAB/LUX 2019
Last update28/01/2019
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