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China Planning Second Railway to Tibet

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/11/15; November 15, 2001.]

BEIJING, Nov 13 (AFP) - China is planning to build a second railway line to Tibet, only months after work on a first controversial link began, state press reported on Tuesday.

Work on a rail line between the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and Kunming, capital of China's southwestern province of Yunnan, will begin when the first line is completed around 2007, the Business Weekly said.

Vice Minister of Railways Sun Yongfu said the plan had been developed but the central government still had to give final approval.

A line between Lhasa and Kunming would be around 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) long, would cost 7.6 billion dollars and take a decade to complete, the newspaper said.

In June, construction began on a three billion dollar line connecting Lhasa to Golmud, in the northwestern province of Qinghai, 1,118 kilometres (650 miles) away.

Tibetan rights advocates have condemned the project, saying although a railway could bring economic benefits, it was part of an effort to encourage Han Chinese migrants to settle in Tibet and dilute the Tibetan population to bolster Beijing's control over the region.

The railway and the expected influx of Han Chinese that would follow would make Tibetans second-class citizens in their own land, human rights groups said.

Plans to build a second line into the Himalayan territory are likely to fuel these fears still more.

China has wanted to build a rail line into Tibet since its "peaceful liberation" of the region in 1950, but railway technology has only now become advanced enough to make it possible.

More than 960 kilometers (600 miles) of the Lhasa-Golmud railway will be built at an altitude higher than 4,000 meters (13,120 feet), with almost half of that having to be anchored into permafrost.

Engineers building the line through Yunnan province would have to cope with new challenges including frequent landslides and earthquakes, the Business Weekly said.


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