It seems most, if not all, Tibetan villages have a landscape sacred to them. In Hongpo Village, it is Dralha Chonyi, the mountain from whence the village water supply comes. In Fudi Village, near LaBrang , it is a beautiful, small valley, where animals graze peacefully in an unaltered environment. Because it is sacred, nothing is ever put there, nor is anything ever taken out. Great care is taken to insure this home of the mountain gods suffers no trespass. This fastidiousness engenders peace and assures that babies are robust, livestock is healthy, and crops are plentiful.
Well, that is how it is supposed to be, but the Chinese government paid an expert to come to the region and decide where best to put the township dump. The site picked out as the one least compromising to the environment, a great concern to the ruling class, was, yup, you guessed it: Fudi’s sacred valley.
The villagers got together to present their case to the county government, to no avail. In fact, they were threatened for their outspokenness. In a final attempt, the men of the village went again to plead their case, telling the officials how important the site is, giving their reasons. The officials retorted that they were not going to pay an expert to come out again, and the villagers should stop being so superstitious. Two of the entourage, arbitrarily picked, were thrown in jail. Released a few days later, the incident was so frightening that the villagers signed a ten year contract.
The dump site is a repository for everything from the sizable town: garbage, toxic chemicals, hospital waste. To facilitate disposal all this effluent, a large roadway wide enough to accommodate three vehicles at a time was graded and paved. Truckloads are brought in everyday, mornings and afternoons. The bucolic valley is defiled, and the peace of the region forever disturbed.
But that is not all. Some very strange things started to occur as the mountain gods cried out loud. The first anomaly was to manifest itself in the teeth of the cattle grazing on their traditional feeding grounds in the valley. They turned black. A few months later most of the animals were were dead. Autopsies revealed guts full of plastic.
By the second year the dump was active, it was worse. Two children of the village were not developing as they should. They had both been fed milk from cows known to be grazing near the dump. One of the children has a cousin of the same age living elsewhere. When the cousin came to visit, the grandparents were disturbed at the comparison: the village child’s growth was considerably stunted. They called in a doctor, who after testing, concluded it was definitely something in the milk. Now, cows are not allowed to graze in the sacred valley.
But it doesn’t stop. By the third year, sudden blindness was afflicting villagers. At first it was just the oldest, those in their 80’s, but gradually the condition struck younger and younger people. Last year, the seventh of the existence of the dump, a 37-year old villager lost his sight in one eye. The blindness manifests itself in anywhere from a week to three weeks after the first symptoms occur. Ten people in a village of 50 households have gone blind.
Adding even further insult to the situation, the government contract stipulates that the trash will be covered with fill dirt with every load dumped. That has not happened, and now plastic trash flies everywhere, especially in the winter with the winds that accompany that season. Flies, too, proliferate. Lord knows what they are carrying around.
The villager’s beliefs were validated last year as the mountain gods spoke loudly. Every year these gods in any Buddhist village are honored with the planting of auspicious arrows by the village men, creating a labtse, which can have hundreds, maybe thousands of arrows. Since before communism, Fudi Village has maintained their labtse, and the site stands straight and strong all year. In 2013, for the first time ever, it tilted to a very noticeable angle. This is a very direct indication that the gods are distraught. And, of course, so are the villagers. The government offered money to rebuild the site, but the villagers are righteously annoyed. From their viewpoint, all of the problems would be solved if they would just close the dump, and that money that they were willing to give could be put to use for a truly meaningful project.
Before the dump, none of these problems existed. All this, I was told.
Fudi Village needs Erin Brocovitch.