China is planning to expand services which are improving the Himalayan region’s economy according to the government. In and around Tibet, the country is planning to build six new railway lines, despite critics complaining about the threat that it pose to Tibetan culture.
In an announcement posted on its Web site on Saturday and reported in state-run media on Sunday, the Ministry of Railways said that two of the new lines would run from the capital, Lhasa, to other areas in Tibet. The other four lines would be built in neighboring provinces on the Tibetan plateau.
The ministry added that the new lines are to go into operation before 2020, and give the Tibetan plateau region closer interaction with the economy and culture of China.
In 2006, the final link of a line from the Chinese capital Beijing to Lhasa was opened, completing a multibillion-dollar project that Beijing boasts is the world’s highest railway. Much of the last third of 1 140-km link was specially engineered to protect delicate frozen earth.
Since the completion of the railway, tourism has increased, as Beijing has encouraged majority Han Chinese to travel and move to the region.
In two years, the railway has moved 5.56 million passengers and 4.05 million tons of cargo, lowering local prices of goods, said the ministry.
Thanks to the railway, the government is able to exploit the region’s natural resources while threatening its Buddhist culture and traditional way of life, say foreign activists.
Defending its policies in Tibet, China said that the quality of life improved there, thanks to improvements in infrastructure and health care, along with campaigns to settle nomadic herders in permanent communities.
Although China says Tibet has been its territory for centuries, Tibetan activists say the region was independent before 1951, when the Communist Army occupied it.