“Material concerns in Sichuan”

You might recall the deadly landslide last year in Zhouqu, a county seat in the Southern Gansu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. A chief culprit for the landslide was the heavy logging that has taken place across the region, taking the slow-growing forests of the Tibetan plateau down almost overnight. China Dialogue reports on a nearby area where locals are fighting the logging companies:

But on a trip home several months ago, Dawa was first shocked and then angered by what she found: the forest she had been looking forward to seeing appeared to have moved, and the roadside was littered with felled trees. A chainsaw can cut down centuries-old spruce and fir in mere seconds – and chop it up into pieces in minutes.

And then the trucks started passing. Each of these enormous vehicles can carry many trees. It takes about an hour to completely fill one, after which it drives its load away to an area with a timber shortage, where it is used to build houses and make furniture.

The other villagers were just as shocked as Dawa. In early 2010, teams of workers – who seemed more like bandits to the locals –turned up in the valley and started to fell, chop up and transport trees. This has continued ever since.

Dege’s trees grow on steep, unstable mountainsides. Once the trees are felled, areas of mountainside slump into the river like a wounded man, blocking roads and becoming a potential cause of disasters such as mudslides and flashfloods.

One day in June last year, the people of Maisu decided they weren’t going to stand for it any longer – they stormed the camps, sabotaged the chainsaws and chased away the loggers, putting an end to the felling.

Then they built a simple hut at the entrance to the forest and erected a crude roadblock: this was the villagers’ timber checkpoint. The Maisu area is made up of three villages – Puma, Dama and Yueba – and each village sends three people a day to man the checkpoint. Without their say-so, no one can remove a single tree, nor can the trucks get in. In the year since they set up this system, the villagers have stuck to their guns: “No trees will be taken, even if I have to die,” said one.

Other parts of the article read a bit silly, but it goes on to explore the ongoing battle over development, environmental problems, and corrupt local governments. Although some villages are successful in halting the loggers, others aren’t so fortunate. Still others can find themselves under attack for crossing local governments- witness the imprisonment of Tibetan environmentalist Karma Samdrup, who was hit with a boatload of trumped-up charges after he crossed one official too many.

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Filed under China, environment, law

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