Qinghai-Tibet Railway Technically, Financially Feasible

A senior official with the Ministry of Railways said that China is technically and financially capable of constructing the proposed Qinghai-Tibet Railway, and he pledged to curb corruption and shoddy construction with regard to the project by every means.

The railway is of strategic significance and will exert a far-reaching impact in political, economic and military terms, Vice-Minister Sun Yongfu said.

All spending for the world's highest railway project will be borne by the central government and, in addition, there will be open tenders and bids for the project among domestic companies, according to the official.

Advanced foreign technology, especially expertise on frozen- soil engineering, will be introduced in both periods of feasibility study and construction of the project, Sun said.

The railway, 1,100 km in length, will be completed within six years to link up Golmud, a traffic hub in Qinghai Province, with Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet, and afterwards, it will be extended to Shigaze and Linzhi of Tibet, as well as Yunnan Province.

On the issue of possible environmental consequences of the plateau railway, the vice-minister revealed that his ministry is working with other departments concerned to study ways to minimize the negative effects of the project.

As the railway will pass through a region which is home to the sources of the country's largest rivers, including Yangtze and Yellow rivers, due measures will be taken to prevent vegetation from being damaged by the project, he said.

According to some experts, turfs could be removed before taking earth to build the railway, and afterwards, returned to their original place. Or the turfs could be re-generated through planting grass seeds.

As the railway is expected to go by the Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve, culverts are expected to be built under the tracks to let wild animals pass.

"We'll try our best to protect natural resources, despite the fact that it may slow down construction," Sun said.

The official went on to note that the project will encounter three major problems -- geological impact, frozen soil, and the sheer coldness and oxygen shortage on the high land. China is confident and capable of getting over all these obstacles, he stressed.

Currently, experts from the Ministry of Land and Resources, the State Seismological Administration, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are studying geological problems in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau which is plagued with landslides, mudflows, karst rocks, earthquakes, and thunderstorms, according to the official.

On the issue of frozen earth, which is seen as a major headache for building plateau railways, glacier experts have been sent to the area to conduct on-the-spot investigations, while foreign railways built on frozen soil in Russia and Canada are also being studied, the official said. Magnetic materials and new technology might be used in the project, he added.

Experts from the Ministry of Railways and those from the Army and the Ministry of Health are working together on experiments, in order to find ways to deal with the lack of oxygen that may pose a threat to construction workers, Sun noted.

China is technically and financially capable of building it into a first-class railway and it is the right time for its launching, he said.

The government will try hard to keep the project away from corruption, by inviting open tenders from domestic contractors via the Internet and newspapers, the official pledged. Furthermore, the project will adopt the ownership responsibility system and the engineering supervision system, so as to curb corruption and prevent shoddy construction, he said.

(Xinhua 03/08/2001)

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