A journalists' group sent by the central government to Tibet interviewed Li Chang'an, a member of the CPC Standing Committee and vice-mayor of Lhasa, during which he expounded on the general situation of urban construction and future planning of the city.
Half a century ago, the total area of Lhasa was no more than 3 square km, with a population of only 20,000. There was no road, but many beggars and wastewater on the streets, Li said. However, in the past half century, the area of Lhasa has reached 53 square km, with a current population of 470,000, of whom 230,000 live in urban areas (excluding the floating population).
With a history of 1,300 years, Lhasa has integrated ancient culture and modern features. According to an overall plan, the area of Lhasa will reach 272 square km by 2015. The short-term goal is to expand the area to 70 square km by the end of the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005) and increase the population to over 300,000.
In economic construction, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Lhasa had hit 4 billion yuan by the end of last year, doubling that in the 9th Five-Year Plan (1996-2000). The financial income was 180 million yuan. The disposable income of urban residents per capita reached 7,300 yuan and the per capita net income of farmers and herdsmen was 1,700 yuan, an increase of 79 percent and 78 percent respectively over the end of the 8th Five-Year Plan (1991-1995).
In line with the project of helping 80 million people out of poverty in the last seven years of the 20th century, more than 97 percent of impoverished families have shaken off poverty and basically solved the problem of clothes and food. During the 9th Five-Year Plan period, the investment in fixed assets was 2.6 billion yuan.
Though Lhasa is not big enough yet, Li said great changes have taken place. The local government has strengthened publicity in urban planning. Meanwhile, it relies heavily on the investment from social sectors. Under government leadership, it will bring into full play the roles of Beijing and Jiangsu Province, both heavily involved in assisting Tibet.
Li also introduced the main trends in the urban construction of Lhasa in recent years.
First, perfect the infrastructure construction around the basic functions of a city. Lhasa has not only strengthened its efforts in road framework construction, but has also gradually perfected infrastructure construction, including the establishment of a garbage treatment plant, sewage plant, western suburbs tap water plant and control of the urban environment and sanitation. Besides, underground pipeline construction is also included in the program for the 10th Five-Year Plan of Lhasa. Some investment comes from the autonomous region's government and part from the municipal finance, while most money comes from the state and provinces and municipalities, which provide direct help.
Second, improve or build 15 living quarters and regulate the construction of them. Some quarters have won the title of civilized quarters of Tibet Autonomous Region. Efforts will be strengthened in this aspect this year.
Third, stress the protection of cultural relics in urban construction. Since Songtsam Gambo settled the capital of the Tubo Kingdom in Lhasa, it has become the political and cultural center of Tibet. It is also a holy land of Tibetan Buddhism. Lhasa is among the first batch of historical and cultural cities approved by the State Council, and the Potala Palace and Johkang Monastery have been included in the World Cultural Heritage list. Therefore, in the urban construction of Lhasa, the local government pays much attention to the protection of folk characteristics. The old urban area keeps its original appearance. If new houses are needed, they must follow relevant rules and must not affect the overall feature of the area.
Fourth, emphasize the construction of the biological environment. At present, the vegetation coverage rate of Lhasa has reached 32 percent, and per capita green land is 12 square meters. Also, Lhasa has now 6.2 square km of wetland, which is quite beneficial to improving the air quality and increasing oxygen content - hence, it is called "lung of Lhasa". Wetland construction must be strengthened and the ecological environment must be protected. Now, a series of relevant rules and regulation have been issued to follow.
During the 10th Five-Year Plan period, Lhasa will put 200-300 million yuan to build the wetland area into a tourist attraction and pave roads around the wetland. At the same time, the wetland area will be further expanded so as to perfect the air and environment quality of the city. No polluting project will be allowed to operate in Lhasa. To remain as the cleanest plateau city in the world, Lhasa will launch programs to prevent vehicle exhaust emissions and industrial pollution.
Fifth, in the urban construction of Lhasa, Tibetan ethnic features must be stressed to avoid the same pattern as with cities in other parts of China. In the old urban areas, in particular, the construction of major streets and buildings must follow the style of traditional Tibetan culture. All buildings are limited in height to ensure that the Potala Palace can be seen in all directions. Generally, the buildings are no taller than three stories or eight meters. Buildings on main streets all feature Tibetan styles. In a word, the city of Lhasa integrates modernity and simplicity, solemnity and excitement.
Sixth, cultivate Lhasa into a central city of the autonomous region. In developing primary industry, emphasis should be given to modern agriculture. In secondary industry, special economic sectors, such as traditional handicrafts should be stressed.
Meanwhile, high-tech industries will be developed. The Liuwu New Area and a 12.5-square-km development zone will become the pioneers of economic development of Lhasa and even the whole autonomous region. In the tertiary industry, Lhasa will act as a collecting and distributing center of not only commodities but also information, therefore vitalizing its surrounding areas.