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Tibet Railway extension to Shigatse to be operational by 2010

September 12, 2007

Plans are underway to start building a branch line for the Amdo-Lhasa Railway, which will link the Tibet’s capital Lhasa with Shigatse [Ch: Xigaze], a major Tibetan city some 280 kilometers to its South-West.

Jin Shixun, director of the regional development and reform commission reportedly said Sunday that the new line will be the first feeder line for the Tibet railway.

If everything goes well, the authorities hope that the feasibility study could be completed by the end of January and the preliminary design by the end of May, while the actual construction could be started within the year.

According to the current plan, the railway is expected to be operational by 2010.

While China called the controversial railway to ecologically fragile Tibetan region an engineering feat, China’s undeterred move is seen by many as to strengthen Beijing's political control over Tibet, speed immigration to the Tibetan region as well as the assimilation of Tibetan culture.

Critics say the train is threatening Tibetan culture by bringing in hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese to this once-isolated region. Earlier, China’s state media reported that by the end of July 2007, Tibet has received more than 1.7 million tourist arrivals, citing the regional tourism administration as it source.

According to the report, the administration has been forced to reset its forecast of tourist arrivals for the whole year to 3.5 million, up from 3 million projected at the start of the year.

Besides, negative impact on Tibet’s delicate and pristine ecology both in terms of pollution and exploitation of its rich untamed natural resources, which is estimated to become manifold, is unprecedented.

In July 2006, amidst worldwide Tibetan protest, China launched the 1,956-km railway from Amdo to Lhasa, calling it Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Now extension of the railway to Shigatse means further deepening Tibetan people’s long anticipated fears. Beijing, however, continues to turn a deaf ear to Tibetan outcry.

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