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Railway to Bring Convenience to Tibetans
Baima Zhoima, a 58-year-old Tibetan woman said with a smile she could make a pilgrimage in Tibet every year "when the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is built."

She and her family live in a warm, three-roomed stone house on the 4,500-meter-high Xiacang Mountain near the Tuotuo River in northwest China's Qinghai Province.

A sweet smell from a pot of boiling buttered tea permeates her living room, and the stove's blazing fire cozily warms the people seated around.

Baima Zhoima plays with a 10-month-old baby named Zhoima Qoisan, an orphan she adopted recently. The child chuckles at her as she makes amusing gestures.

As a herdswoman in Tanglha Township in Golmud City, Baima Zhoima has a family of nine, including four adopted orphans.

Her family shifted to its current home two months ago from a Tibetan-style seven-roomed stone house 50 meters away.

The railway from Golmud to Lhasa on which work began last June, is an important part of the mighty Qinghai-Tibet Railway. Due to topographic factors the line was designed to right run across the site where Baima Zhoima's house is located, forcing her family to find another place to live.

Her household was the only one in Qinghai Province affected by the 588-km stretch of railway.

In July, the township government selected a site nearby for Zhoima to build a new house.

"We tried to find a place convenient for her family to live, which won't cause problems in their daily life and farm work," said Zhoumao, deputy head of Tanglha Township.

"The township government has also allocated 5,000 yuan (about US$600) for Zhoima to build a warm house, and has given her 80,000 yuan as compensation for her relocation," Zhoumao added.

The railway runs across Zhoima's 400-mu (about 48 hectares) pasture on which she raises over 600 sheep, 80 yaks, and some horses and camels.

The railway construction crew provided Zhoima's family with plenty of cement, timber and stones to help them build a new house. Zhoima said she planned to add another four rooms next year.

The railway workers have also built a special access passage under the railway for Zhoima, to make the coming and going of vehicles and livestock easier.

They reinforced the passage and steps Zhoima uses for carrying water from the foot of the mountain.

"The government has been very considerate to us and has behaved very responsibly," said Zhoima. "The railway construction hasn't caused us any trouble."

Every day she takes a pot of boiled buttered tea to the railway builders at their workplace near her home.

Thirty years ago, Zhoima's family relocated to Tanglha Township from Nagqu in Tibet. She and her family lived in tents for the next 15 years.

In 1987, Zhoima and her family began building their stone house. It took them four years to build the first four rooms and another few to build the remaining three rooms.

Two years ago, Zhoima traveled to Tibet on horseback, a trip which took her a month to complete.

She saw large aircraft in Lhasa, but says she has never seen a train in her life.

"Planes are so big, but they cause no harm to residents," said Zhoima. "Can trains possibly be bigger than planes?" she wondered, reluctant to have her house dismantled when first asked to do so.

Angnan, Zhoima's son-in-law, who has traveled to many parts of China, explained to Zhoima that a train is as large as dozens of rooms, can carry over 10,000 sheep at a time and can travel from Tuotuo River to Lhasa within twelve hours.

"In order to avoid traversing the area where your house is located, we would have to build a long bridge over the valley or dig a tunnel through the mountain, which would cost ten million yuan, an amount equivalent to the value of all the sheep in Tanglha Township," Shen Yong, an official with the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Construction Headquarters, told Zhoima.

"How long does it take for the train to get to Lhasa from here?" Zhoima asked Shen.

"At most 12 hours."

"Then I can go to Tibet by train whenever I have free time!"

Thrilled at the prospect, she happily agreed to move to the new residence nearby, looking forward to the railroad's completion.

With the majority of the railway to be built on the plateau at an altitude of over 4,000 meters above sea level, the Qinghai-Tibet railway will be the "highest" of its kind in the world.

Expected to be completed in 2007, the railway will be Tibet's first and will play a significant role in boosting Tibet's development.

"While designing the railway's route, we tried to avoid relocation of Tibetans to avoid causing them inconvenience," said Lu Chunfang, head of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Construction Headquarters.

(Xinhua News Agency November 16, 2002)

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