An environmental protection project in Tibet, launched amid criticism that China’s mining projects were affecting its fragile ecosystem, is now beginning to bring about improvements, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has said.

“Tibet has one of the best quality environments in the world,” Wang Haizhou, vice chairman of Tibet autonomous regional government said. China central cabinet had approved the “Plan for Ecology Safety Barrier Protection and Construction in Tibet (2008-2030),” in 2009 to improve the environment in the region.

b”Yushu’s annual equine festival is billed as a showcase of Chinese government support for Tibetan culture|Source: AFPxc2xa0″

The project was launched amid criticism that China’s mining projects were affecting the fragile environment of Tibet, regarded as the roof of the world. A report issued on Wednesday by the CAS outlining the progress achieved by the projects, said the plateau environmental system in Tibet is generally stable and the vegetation coverage has been on the rise.

Areas suffering from desertification have decreased by 107,100 hectares, state run Xinhua news agency reported. Measures to return grazing land to grassland have also been lauded and have had the upshot of increasing the incomes of farmers and herdsmen. 

There has been a significant rise in the use of clean energy to support farming and breeding while the lives of farmers and herdsmen have considerably improved. The usage of new clean energy has reached 65.6 percent, mitigating damage to forest and grasslands, the report said.

b’Ethnic Tibetans walk across the grounds after performing at a festival at Yushu in Qinghai|Source: AFPxc2xa0′

Tibet’s natural reserve area now covers 413,700 square kilometers. The area of wetlands under protection is now 4.31 million hectares, or 65.98 percent of all wetland in Tibet. Rare animals and plants are also being effectively protected, the report said. “The quality of the water, air, soil and environment atop of the Tibet Plateau remains in good condition,” Wang said.

Wang added that the water quality of many main rivers and lakes, such as the Yarlung Zangbo River and Namtso Lake, are at Grade I or Grade II, the top two water quality levels. The air quality in major cities and towns is mostly good, and most of the forests, grasslands, wetlands and wildlife across Tibet are still pristine, Wang said.

According to CAS vice president Zhang Yaping, for the project CAS researchers took three years, inspected over 10 major zones, collected about 1,300 samples from three different areas and 20 monitoring sites and reached the conclusions stated in the report. CAS also analysed remote sensing data in three periods since 1990 and studied environmental changes in Tibet over the past 20 years.