Residents and monks of Lhamo Mountain affected by Ganhetan Industrial District Park pollution, Qinghai, China

The Ganhetan Industrial District, near the Kumbum Monastery, pollutes the land and the water by the processing of lead, putting in danger the children's life. The residents wrote a letter appeal for action to be taken by governmental authorities.


The Kumbum Monastery (Ta'er Monastery in chinese) is a historic and very important site for Tibetan Buddhism, situated in in the Qinghai province of China (Amdo in tibetan). The Monastery is collocated on the holy Lhamo Mountain and near the river Mendan Gorge. In the last years beginning from 2011, the Ganhetan Industrial District Park in Huangzhong (Tibetan: Rushar) wal constructed in the vicinity of Monastery, and it lured many companies to accomplish mining around the territory, like the Western Regions Mining and Smelting Works, the Qinghai Salt Lake Chemical Engineering Co. Ltd., the Western Steel Mining Co. Ltd., and the Qinghai Shunxiang Mining Industries Co. Ltd. Pollution and senseless extractive business practices caused serious damage to the land, to the shapes of the mountains and to the water courses, polluting water sources, and destroying the plant cover. The High Peaks Pure Earth [1] (a web site provides insightful commentary on Tibet related news and issues) had translated part of an appeal letter, reported by an unknown tibetan blogger, with online name Zongkawang, and published on a TibetCul blog on July 13, 2011.

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Basic Data
Name Residents and monks of Lhamo Mountain affected by Ganhetan Industrial District Park pollution, Qinghai, China
ProvinceQinghai province
SiteTa'er Monastery, Kumbum Champa Ling, 金堂巷 Huangzhong, Lhamo Mountain, Amdo
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral processing
Specific CommoditiesLead
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn the last years beginning from 2011, the Ganhetan Industrial Park has been constructed in the vicinity of Kumbum Monastery, attracting the Western Regions Mining and Smelting Works, the Qinghai Salt Lake Chemical Engineering Co. Ltd., the Western Steel Mining Co. Ltd., and the Qingdao Shunxiang Industrial CO. Ltd. to carry out large scale mining and extraction around Kumbum Monastery’s holy Lhamo Mountain and Mendan Gorge [1].
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected PopulationTen thousand people in Kumbum Monastery’s monastic community and over ten neighbouring villages [1]
Start Date22/06/2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesQinghai Salt Lake Chemical Engineering Company Ltd. from China
Western Steel Mining Co. Ltd from China
Qingdao Shunxiang Industrial CO., Ltd. from China
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersInternational Campaign for Tibet:, [email protected];

High Peaks Pure Earth

Tibet: Environment and Development:;

Tibet Watch:;

The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Religious groups
Buddhist monks
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
OtherThe situation became more serious, especially during the months of May to July 2011, when eight villages had serious contamination in their water pipes with the water becoming muddy and foul smelling [1].

A video uploaded to a Chinese video sharing, shows turbid and discolored water being pumped out of a spigot by a monk at Kumbum monastery [5];

On July 23 2011, a blogger wrote: “In recent years the environment at Kumbum Monastery has become awful. The local government and businesses have colluded to build a great many polluting enterprises five kilometers from Kumbum Monastery, and so every time the wind blows or it rains, smoke, dust and foul-smelling air settles down on the roofs and courtyards, and the temples’ golden tiles and wall murals are already corroding”[1].
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
OtherMonks and local people became nauseous, their bodies became listless and they felt dazed and some even had to be hospitalised from drinking the water [1];

Lead is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems. It interferes with the development of the nervous system and is therefore particularly toxic to children. Symptoms include abdominal pain, headache, anemia, irritability, and in severe cases seizures, coma, and death. No safe threshold for lead exposure has been discovered, and there is no known amount of lead that is too small to cause the body harm [2];

Pollution from lead is highly toxic and can interrupt the body’s neurological, biological, and cognitive functions. Children are particularly susceptible, and high levels of lead exposure can cause reduced IQ and attention span, reading and learning disabilities, behavioral problems, hearing loss, and disruption in the development of visual and motor functioning. High levels of lead can cause anemia, brain, liver, kidney, nerve, and stomach damage, as well as comas, convulsions, and even death [6]
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Other[6]Human rights watch;

[2]International Campaign for Tibet
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The awareness of the citizens and monks and their capacity to organize to defend their rights, writing reports and letter appeals, it's a good outcome for the environmental justice and for the visibility to international level. But of course in front of casualness and possible corruption of the authorities, it is difficult to get some solution and the lack of environmental safety carry on.
Sources and Materials

[5]Human right watch, China: Children Poisoned by Lead and Denied Treatment, JUNE 15, 2011
[click to view]

Copper and gold mining in Tibet, Copper and gold mining in Tibet, October 11 2011 by rukor-admin
[click to view]

Britain based Tibet Watch, “Environmental Protest on the Tibetan plateau”, January 2015
[click to view]

Green Tibet, Annual Newsletter 2011, Environment and Development Desk
[click to view]

[6]Human rights watch, “My Children Have Been Poisoned”. A Public Health Crisis in Four Chinese Provinces, JUNE 15, 2011
[click to view]


[1]High peaks pure earth, Contamination of Drinking Water caused by Mining: An appeal letter from Kumbum Monastery, July 29, 2011
[click to view]

[3] Radio Free Asia, Monastery, Villages Hit by Pollution, 2011-08-01
[click to view]

[4] The China hotline, “Contamination of Drinking Water Caused by Mining”, July 30, 2011
[click to view]

International Campaign for Tibet, Bold online appeals address persistent lead poisoning in Qinghai water supply, Save Tibet, July 29, 2011
[click to view], China pollutes Tibetan monastery, August 2, 2011
[click to view]

Media Links

“An Urgent Appeal Letter from All Monks and Lay People. In and Around Kumbum Monastery”, Screenshot of the Appeal Letter as it Appeared on a TibetCul Blog
[click to view]

[5], 首页> 热点> MVI_0007
[click to view]

Other Documents
[click to view]

[2]International Campaign for Tibet, Bold online appeals address persistent lead poisoning in Qinghai water supply International Campaign for Tibet, July, 29 2011
[click to view]

Rick Wang19970516 Photo - Feb 2012 Ta‘er Temple
[click to view]
[click to view]

[5]Human right watch, China: Children Poisoned by Lead and Denied Treatment, JUNE 15, 2011 At least 615 of the 731 children living in two villages near this lead smelter in China’s Shaanxi province showed excessive amounts of lead in their blood according to 2009 medical tests.

© 2009 Associated Press
[click to view] Tour group visiting Kumbum. The largest Gelugpa monastery outside the TAR, Kumbum is a major Tibetan Buddhist site affected by Chinese tourism. - See more at:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorMyriam Bartolucci, EJAtlas internship researcher, [email protected]
Last update08/02/2018