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Global Warming Threatens Tibet Rail Link

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2006/02/05; February 5, 2006.]

BEIJING, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Global warming could threaten the new Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest, within a decade, a Chinese researcher said in remarks published on Sunday.

Wu Ziwang, a frozen soil specialist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the official Xinhua news agency his research over three decades revealed large areas of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau showed signs of shrinking, as they were frozen less of the time.

This could threaten the new railway, which is to start operations this year, Wu said.

"Fast thawing of frozen soil in the plateau might greatly increase the instability of the ground, causing more grave geological problems in the frozen soil areas where major projects such as highways or railways run through," Wu added.

A separate report by the academy's desert institute showed that temperatures on the plateau have been rising markedly since 1984 and that winter temperatures could rise by another 1-2 degrees Celsius by 2050. China completed construction of the controversial pan-Himalayan railway in October. It is to go into trial operation on July 1, Xinhua said.

The railway, which runs from Xining, capital of Qinghai province, to Tibet's capital Lhasa, has been criticized for damaging the plateau's fragile environment and for threatening Tibetan culture by speeding up migration from other areas.

Close to 1,000 km (600 miles) of the line's tracks run at more than 4,000 meters (13,000 ft), and it reaches 5,072 meters (16,640 ft) at its highest point.

Wu i s not the first Chinese researcher to warn that the project could be threatened by rising temperatures, but he forecasts it happening earlier than previously estimated.

State media quoted Luo Yong, deputy director of China's National Climate Center, as saying last June that rising temperatures on the plateau could affect safe operation of the railway by 2050.


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