The road to a new life

Climbing over the high mountains, passing the blue lake below, the buses seem connected as they negotiated the winding plateau highway.

Tibet autonomous region implemented, on July 19, the ecological relocation of the second batch of high-altitude herdsmen in Shuanghu county, Nagqu. Consequently, another batch of herdsmen bade their farewells to the bitter, cold and remote hinterland of northern Tibet and went to their new homes by the Yarlung Zangbo River.

Most human migration comes with life-changing expectations-new home, new area, new opportunities and new challenges. The same is true for the relocation of Shuanghu, China's highest county.

At 6:30 in the morning, the sky was not yet clear, but the road in Dodma township, Shuanghu county, was already lively. The herdsmen carried luggage and parcels on their backs, helped the old and the young, and boarded the bus briskly.

Banners hanging from the bus indicate the significance of this relocation.

"Relocating will benefit many generations," said one. "Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," proclaimed another. "Adhere to the people as the center and build a strong ecological safety barrier," instructed another. Buchung, 73, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and the move was something he relished. "I'm looking forward to my new home in low altitude and warm weather, which will relieve my arthritis," he says.

Doctor Phurbu Tsamchod from Shuanghu county's People's Hospital accompanied the team to provide medical services for the relocated people. "The altitude of Shuanghu is too high, and people are prone to hypertension, gout and congenital heart diseases. After moving to a new home, it will be beneficial to the prevention and treatment of these diseases," She says.

The sun slowly rose, the motorcade drove away slowly, and the grassland returned to tranquility.

This is a journey that spans thousands of kilometers. The new home is located in Senburi village, Gonggar county, Lhokha city, about 900 kilometers away from Shuanghu county. The altitude there is 3,600 meters, which is more than 1,000 meters lower than that of Shuanghu.

Although the journey is long, one can feel a joyful mood in the air. The northern Tibetan herdsmen are full of expectations for a new life.

Tsering Yangjan, 27, is eight months pregnant and will give birth at a hospital near her new home. "There are many risks in having a baby at a high altitude. Being able to have a baby in a new home at a low altitude has made me less worried," she says.

Niangsang and the children form Guogencaqu village are chatting. His son will attend Semburi Kindergarten next year. "The wind rages all year round in Shuanghu. Going to the new home in Senburi is good for the children's growth. It is difficult to leave home, but for the sake of the next generation, I am in favor of relocation," he says.

More than half of Shuanghu county is in the Qiangtang National Nature Reserve, which is a haven for antelope, wild donkey and yak, but the grassland in the area is degraded at a rate of 3 to 5 percent every year.

Tadrin of Zhongluma village says: "This is the place where I have lived for decades. I have to leave all of a sudden, and I can't bear it. But the relocation is also for the ecological protection of Shuanghu, which is a good thing."

In order to solve the problem of harmonious coexistence between man and nature and build a strong national ecological security barrier, the Tibet autonomous region carried out high-altitude ecological relocation of three towns in the northern part of Shuanghu in 2019. The relocation this time is mainly concentrated in four townships in the southern part of the county, and will be completed in early August.

The Senburi resettlement site is more than 60 kilometers away from the urban area of Lhasa, and close to the airport, railway and expressway. Hospitals, schools and markets are readily available in the resettlement site. The picture scroll of the new life of Shuanghu herdsmen will slowly unfold here.

At about 8 pm, the convoy arrived at Senburi village.

The local people held a white hada, a long piece of silk, in their hands, danced cheerfully, and held the "Chemar Box", which symbolizes the abundance of grain, to welcome the "new neighbors" from afar in a festive atmosphere of gongs and drums.

The setting sun fell like a flame on the broad Yarlung Zangbo River, and the mountains in the distance seemed to melt into the glow.

The cargo truck departing from Dodma township, Shuanghu county, Tibet. SUN FEI/XINHUA