China has settled nearly 50,000 Tibetan nomads into sedentary communities in a drive to protect the remote alpine region's fragile ecology from their herds, state media said Monday.
Xinhua news agency said 49,631 people from nomadic families were settled over the past four years under a policy that Tibetan activists decry as destructive blow to the Buddhist region's ancient culture under Chinese rule.
The nomads were relocated from a rugged region on the Tibetan plateau that is home to the headwaters of three of Asia's major rivers, the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong, the report said.
The report said the settlement policy was aimed at protecting the ecology of the area from overgrazing by the nomads' herds as fears grow for the region's ecology.
Scientists say Tibet's glaciers are rapidly melting and warn this could cause widespread future flooding in regions downstream. They also say the elimination of the glaciers will threaten water supplies across Asia.
However, exiled Tibetan activists have said the policy destroys the nomadic and environmentally sustainable pastoral culture of Tibetan cattle and sheep herders.
The region's government has offered the nomads vocational training and set up a fund to encourage them to start their own businesses, while building new schools and other facilities, Xinhua quoted a local government official as saying.
Chinese state media said in 2007 that the government eventually planned to resettle 100,000 Tibetan nomads.
Violent anti-Chinese riots spread across Tibetan and adjacent regions populated by ethnic Tibetans in March of 2008.
China has controlled the region for six decades.