It hasn’t been widely reported in the US media, but late last week there was massive flooding which caused a landslide in Drugchu, Amdo, Tibet (Chinese: Zhouqu, Gansu Province). Drugchu is in north eastern Tibet; the Tibet Action mapping project is keeping track of incoming reports (as well as of recent flooding in Ladakh, a Tibetan area of northern India). The latest update is that there are over 700 confirmed dead and over 1,000 people still missing.
It appears that many Tibetans on the ground believe this disaster to be directly or indirectly caused (or exacerbated) by large scale mining activities, damming and major deforestation in the region. Oiwan Lam at Global Voices Online has a report on this, based around work by Tibetan poet and blogger Woeser, who is combing Twitter for updates and responses. Oiwan Lam documents a long history of warnings coming from Tibetans about the dangers of flooding and landslides in Drugchu from many construction projects and logging, as well as a lack of adequate notification systems for landslides and flooding. In short, this was not a natural disaster, but a man-made disaster, caused by the Chinese government’s reckless resource exploitation policies, which coincidentally displayed a massive disregard for the value of Tibetan life.