Origins of Rivers: Omens of A Crisis

This is the first feature of the “Tibetan Plateau in Peril” project, a series of video and other visual stories about melting glaciers, thawing permafrost and a whole ecological degradation on the “roof of the world” and their region wide, 2-billion-population impact. Originally published in January 2009.

18 Responses to “Origins of Rivers: Omens of A Crisis”

  1. Jill Ferraz Says:


    If we (The Tibet Society of South Africa) would like to order one of your videos, how do we go about doing this?

  2. bose Says:

    Great video.

  3. Shappard Says:

    nice one :)
    check my friend’s blog

  4. Ariane Eyer Says:

    Sorry, aber das bezweifel ich ganz stark…

  5. ab Says:

    If pleople want a green world stop buying chineese products. China frusttrated the top, now pleple of the world dicide themselves.

  6. mfellion Says:

    It is impossible to get the true faithful to rethink but perhaps some would like to get the real data and what was done to it to make the temperature climb “real”. It is basically a fraud by Mann and company. Go to and you can see what was done. The temperature even on the UN chart has risen less than a half degree so the melting is not being caused by any sudden man caused reason. At one time the coastal regions of the southern mediterranean were the grain belt of the Roman empire, now it is a desert. Climate changes for a lot of reasons. If it is getting drier build dams.

  7. Ivy Q Says:

    I think it’s important for the Chinese to know the environment in China. I’m working in an NGO in Beijing. and we are planning to give some lectures in the communities. Can we in some way use your documentary? as the locals can not understand English, do you have a Chinese version or we can translate it ourselves?


  8. Jahanara Nuri Says:

    Useful site. I make documentaries. May I use some clips from the films of this site ?
    Looking forward to hear from the Asia Society.

    Jahanara Nuri

  9. Andrea Enrico Pia Says:

    Thanks for the wonderful work you’have done.
    I’m studying in detail China water shortage and your work insipers me to learn and do more. We, as world citizen, have the duty to spread the message and let people know that water resources are changing and how this could be affecting us all in the future. We have to make people understand, specifically the urbanized segment of world population, that water is not only about showers and vacations.

    Thank you!

  10. Kee Says:

    Nice blog and thanks for this latest post!

  11. Royston E Naylor (Stone) Says:

    Thank you for this, I have re-posted on Facebook. I was fortunate enough to spend 10 days living with Nomad families in the Chang Thang region of Ladakh in 1999 and tried to help them in whatever small ways I could. Seeing these videos, I will now try to refresh my efforts to raise awareness of these important issues!

    La Gyal Lo!

  12. Jingfang Liu, University of Southern California Says:

    This environmental crisis in Tibet is not a problem of the Tibetan people themselves, but a problem for the whole world and a highlight of the global environmental crisis. Tibetan nomad, unfortunately became the victims. Why? the rivers originated from Tibet feed all Chinese and world citizens who “cost-effectively” live on products made in China. Yet, after the gratification of industrialization, when one is tied of the old electronic gadgets, many used ones are being sent back to China to accumulate piles of e-waste mountains treating health of millions and the real mountains in Tibet. And the story goes on..

    As a communication major, i thank you for circulating such documentaries, i hope it is the first of a series of effective steps you take to pass the information around to all. When all are aware of this world crisis, effective actions are not too far behind. I believe we still have hopes and we have to.

  13. Pankaj Jha Says:

    I agree with Mr.Imtiaz

  14. Imtiaz Rangwala Says:

    Thank you for raising this issue through this short documentary. The environmental changes in the Tibetan Plateau are very disturbing and “personally” painful. I have been studying recent climatic changes in the plateau so the message in not surprising but it certainly is touching. These messages are very much needed to get the focus of the world.

    Moreover, we CANNOT wait for the nation-state or the world to fix these problems. Several environmental processes are already on a rapidly changing trajectory and there is many decades of warming in the pipeline even if world starts acting with sanity soon. Therefore, I believe that local innovation in conjunction with expert scientific help can do a lot in the way of adaptation to the changing climate, particularly, in conserving and retaining water resources in an environmentally friendly way. Since the natural water reservoirs such as glaciers and permafrosts are rapidly depleting as well as the changing pattern of rainfall, we have to come out with innovative methods to manifest new reservoirs which will retain water year round. This will also help put the locals back to work on their own land. I am definitely not advocating for building big dams – they might do more damage than good. In times of large uncertainties and great difficulties, I hope we can move ahead with our better intiution and ecological sense to at least reduce the damages to life on the plateau and other mountain regions of the world.

    Imtiaz Rangwala
    Rutgers University, New Jersey

  15. Tenzin Yeshi Says:

    The climate change in the roof of world has not only effected the South Asia but also the much-respected and simple life of the Tibetan nomads. The shrinking grassland has led to many nomads difficult to survive with their large livestock.

    If the world does not open their eyes and ears on the global warming, it surely will have an impact on the larger population of the world and the fear of war on drinking water would not be far. We can see the disturbing war-for-oil but can you imagine if there is a war-for-water?

    CHINA GREEN: Your concern is shared by us and we certainly hope humanity can muster the political will and put the act together to a solution.


    Many many thanks to Orville Schell and Michael Zhao for making this important documentary of the Tibetan Plateau.

    Many people in Asia don’t know that Tibet is truly their only source of fresh water in their respective countries. A documentary like this is not only eye-opening but also crucial in educating the public about the environment and how it relates to them directly.

    As a Tibetan (who is also trying hard to be ‘green’), the documentary was very touching on so many levels.

    Your work reminds me of what Margaret Mead once said. She said,”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

    You are the thoughtful committed citizens of the world. Please keep up with the good work!

    Again, thank you and TASHI DELEK!

    Tenzin Dolker-Mentuh

    Milton (Toronto suburb)
    Ontario, CANADA

  17. Jonathan Thiang Says:

    I simply see no end to this until we fundamentally and holistically change Economics. I am a rare person in my Economics Department, or that of any Economics Department the world over, for that matter. So long as being competent signifies the ownership of means in excess of what the owner can make use of, there isn’t anything to do within the current neoclassical/capitalist regime. Here’s the scary news, just about everyone in my Program and all of those that have gone before me could never imagine a world organized differently. In my entire student life I was never asked once to question neoclassical economics. I am afraid that it is a question few have been asked or have asked themselves.
    I’m afraid that Thorstein Veblen was most certainly right when he wrote “Whether any given people is to come through any given period of such enforced change alive and fit to live, appears to be a matter of chance in which human insight plays a minor part and human foresight no part at all”.
    It is simply sad that we have managed to do this to ourselves out of cupidity.

    Jonathan Thiang
    Toronto, Canada
    York University

  18. Dhondup Chophel Says:

    I watched this video with deep sadness. IT is always beneficial for organisations to bring out such environment destructions due to human greed. As a Tibetan, it is very important that the environment/ecology of Tibet is preserved with extra care so that 47% of the human race who depend on rivers that originate from Tibet are not affected. Yellow river is already declared unfit for irrigation, fishing and drinking. It is not the problem of Tibetans alone.

    REPLY FROM CHINA GREEN: Thanks for the note. We share your concern for this very important region. We will continue our work and hope for the best.

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