Nima Tsering (front) and his fellow forest rangers from Barka Village, Bomi County, walk their beats in the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon on March 27 (XINHUA/DAWA)
One of Tibet's major tourist attractions is its natural plateau landscape. Tourism has filled the pockets of Tibetan farmers and herdsmen, which further impels them to make greater efforts to protect their environment. As Chinese President Xi Jinping said, "Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets."
For decades, 50-year-old Nima Tsering and fellow residents of Barka village, Bomi County, have been living off the virgin forest in the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon. When Tsering was young, every household in the village had a gun hanging on the wall. "Wild animals were being scared off back then; hunters often came home empty-handed after days of wondering in the forest," he told Beijing Review.
But the situation was reversed gradually after measures were introduced to protect the forest as a national level nature reserve in 1984. Hunting is now prohibited and every one of the former hunters from 26 families in Barka Village was hired by the local government to act as a forest ranger. The job brings them an additional income of 13,000 yuan ($2,053) annually.
The villagers are not alone in protecting the environment. In 2017, Tibet earmarked 6.17 billion yuan ($973 million) for the hiring of 700,000 farmers and herdsmen to act as environmental protectors.
After decades of protection, wild animals, such as bears, buffalo and monkeys have returned to the forest. In the process, Barka Village became a renowned regional natural destination. Since 2009, more and more tourists have traveled to the small village to enjoy the pristine forest and mountains and experience original Tibetan life. Villagers, including Tsering, started guesthouses to accommodate tourists, which help local residents earn significantly more money. In 2017, Tsering's income was 80,000 yuan ($12,624), four times more than before 2008.
The villagers call the income hike a gift from the mountains and forest. "What the tourists love is the natural environment here. Once the environment is well-protected, the mountains will remain green, the water will stay clear and the sky blue. Then, we will be able to enjoy the gifts of the mountains and forest for a long time," Tsering said.
By the end of 2017, there were 47 nature reserves in Tibet, taking up 33.9 percent of the region's total area.
"Ecological tourism drew visitors to sleepy villages in the region, which has brought changes to the local residents' views on green development," NTDC's Tanzin told Beijing Review, adding that tourism, in his opinion, is a sustainable option for rural Tibet.
Regional statistics show that by developing rural tourism, green agriculture, handicrafts and border fairs, the per-capita disposable income of local farmers and herdsmen climbed to 10,330 yuan ($1,634), a 13.6 percent increase.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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