Project Locations: Qinghai

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Named after the highest and largest inland saltwater lake in China, QINGHAI province is the origin of three of China’s major rivers, Yangtze, Yellow and Mekong making the preservation of this area of vital importance to both local communities and the millions of people living downstream. Bordering Gansu, Xinjiang, Sichuan and Tibet, and with almost half the population coming from ethnic minorities, Qinghai has a culture which demonstrates great influences from both Han and Tibetan traditional cultures as well as Tu, Hui, Salar and Mongolian. Buddhism in particular has deeply influenced this region, as well as the Bön tradition and other local beliefs.

Thanks to its elevation, topography, latitude and atmospheric circulation, Qinghai is an ideal habitat for a range of flora and fauna. From medicinal herbs such as the famous Chinese caterpillar fungus, to the 399 bird and mammals, many of the plants and wildlife found in Qinghai are under state protection. Moreover, Qinghai Lake is located at the crossroads of several bird migration routes across Asia with some 100,000 birds, mainly gulls, cormorants, swans and black-necked cranes flying here during summer. Altogether there are 200 species of birds and animals living in the lake area, including the extremely endangered Przewalski’s gazelles, which are found only in China and currently have a population of less than 1,000.

• Community Education for Sustainable Development

The Centre for Education for Sustainable Development at Qinghai Normal University is an important partner in our Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) efforts in Qinghai. Part of one of the top universities in China, the centre has a long-standing relationship of working with SISC and providing volunteer teachers for our projects. With the majority of the student body coming from the Tibetan plateau, the institution is unique in that it provides all classes in both Chinese and Tibetan. Currently, the centre for ESD and Shangri-la Institute are working together to support local communities and organisations in promoting the training of traditional knowledge and practices as a means of improving livelihood opportunities and preserving indigenous culture.

Another important ESD Centre is Angrong Lile, which was established in 2005 with the support of Shangri-la Institute and the Qinghai Normal University Centre for ESD. Lama Damchue Gyamtso, an expert in traditional Tibetan medicine and an enthusiastic teacher is director of the centre working to increase opportunities for young Tibetans to learn about, utilize and pass on their traditional heritage. As these traditional skills are not taught in the modern school system, without figures like 75 year-old Lama Damchue Gyamtso, important traditional knowledge and practices would be lost. In 2008 with the support of the community and local government, Angrong Lile ESD Centre was officially registered as an NGO, with the goal of training young people in tangka painting and traditional Tibetan medicine as a means of improving their livelihood opportunities.

• Water School for a Living Yangtze

Currently, there are seven schools in Yushu and Xinning participating in the local Water School Programme. Activities in these schools have included environmental poster, handicraft and essay competitions, as well as outdoor activities such as: the exploration of the effect of caterpillar fungi on grassland ecosystems, and an investigation of the Yellow Croaker fish and the environment in Qinghai Lake river basin.

One school in particular, the Lion-Dragon Palace School, organised a religious assembly during which a Tulku (Living Buddha) explained the importance of environmental education to 8,000 members of surrounding communities.

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