The Lake Expansion and the Landless Pastoralists

kokonor photovoice

Facilitated by Palden Tsering

Kokonor is a sacred lake for Tibetan and Mongolian pastoralists who have lived around it for hundreds of years. According to the pastoralists from Saga village, the sacred lake started to expand in 2016. Many consider the expansion as a blessing, but others are suffering from the loss of winter pasture and their houses due to the expansion.
Up to  December 2020, a total of 95 families have reported losing winter pasture due to the expansion, and a total of 25 families have reported losing the entire winter pasture and their winter house to the lake.

“That is my winter house, we spend most of our time there. Unfortunately, I lost my winter pasture and the house in 2019 due to the lake expansion. Now I need to rent pasture from other pastoralists, and I need to find a place to stay.”

Uncle Lhabe, Kokonor, 2019

According to uncle Gonbu, up until the winter of 2019, he lost 600 mu of his winter pasture, and only another 200 mu of land is left for his 200 sheep. To reduce the pressure on his remaining land, he had to entrust half of his sheep to his elder brother.

Aunt Drobe, a female pastoralist in her early 40s, had to give up pastoralism and move to the township centre after losing her entire winter pasture to the lake expansion. Even though she has found a job as a cleaner in the local primary school recently, life in township, as she explained, is becoming ‘problematic.’

Like Uncle Bam, many moved to the township centre after losing their land and houses to the lake expansion. Some bought a place to stay, and some rented from their relatives and other people. Uncle Bam rented two rooms from a friend. However, as Uncle Bam states, they miss the laughing, the singing, the jokes and the time spent with their friends in a tent on the rangelands.