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Development

Extension for Criticized Tibet Rail Link

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2006/03/13; March 13, 2006.]

China plans to expand its much- criticized rail link into Tibet, extending the railroad from the Himalayan region's capital, Lhasa, to its second- biggest city, Shigatse.

March 14, 2006
Associated Press

China plans to expand its much- criticized rail link into Tibet, extending the railroad from the Himalayan region's capital, Lhasa, to its second- biggest city, Shigatse.

Tibet's governor, Jampa Phuntsok, gave few details Monday, but said the extension is due to be finished by 2010, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Critics, including followers of exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, contend the line will harm the environment by opening up the region's timber and mineral resources to further exploitation.

They also fear it will bring a flood of migrants from the dominant Han ethnic group, further diluting the region's unique Buddhist culture. China says the railway to Tibet will vastly improve transport links to China proper, bringing travelers to its tourist sites and opening new markets for the region's products.

"The world's highest railroad is expected to help further boost economic development in Tibet and bring more benefits to local people," Xinhua quoted Phuntsok as saying on the sidelines of the NPC annual session.

Shigatse, roughly 250 kilometers east of Lhasa across rugged mountain valleys, is the traditional home of the Panchen Lama, the second most important figure in Tibet after the Dalai Lama. Famed for its monasteries and temples, it is also an important administrative center in western Tibet.

Originating in the western Chinese city of Golmud, the 1,960km high- altitude line to Lhasa was completed in October at a cost of about 27 billion yuan (HK$26 billion) and is due to begin test runs in July.

About 80 percent of the line runs at altitudes above 4,000 meters, requiring it to use pressurized cars.

News of the extension came on the same day the National Development and Reform Commission recommended a rapid rail link between Beijing and Shanghai use high-speed wheel track instead of a cutting-edge magnetic levitation line.

But the agency said the Cabi net has approved the building of the country's second maglev line, linking Shanghai with nearby Hangzhou.


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