For the first time, a special fund has been established for wildlife protection in China's large construction projects, according to Lu Chunfang, secretary of the Party committee of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Company. The fund is already in operation along the line now under construction.
The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with an average elevation of 4,000 meters, is one of three areas in China with the most fragile ecological environment, said Lu. To protect the pristine nature of the land, the central government has invested heavily in the establishment of the Hoh Xil, Sanjiangyuan and Qiangtang nature reserves under state-level protection.
With the building of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, people are paying more attention to the survival situation of wild animals in an area that is home to such rare species as Tibetan antelopes, yaks, white-lipped deer, snow leopards and black-necked cranes, all of which are under state first-level protection; goa, argali, blue sheep and bar-headed geese, meanwhile, are under state second-level protection.
Lu, who has participated in a number of the country's key construction projects, said that, to guarantee that the animals' living conditions would not be adversely affected, 33 passageways have been opened for their seasonal migrations. This is based on close studies of the animals' regular habitats, and patterns of procreation and migration.
In the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve, Tibetan antelopes migrate to the northern area with a cooler climate and rich water and grass resources to lamb in June-July and return with their offspring in August. The Qingshuihe Bridge, stretching 11.7 km, is the longest passageway built for the migration of wild animals.
"The design of the passages includes the building of lots of bridges and culverts as well as the adjustment of roadbeds. The slope rate has been changed from 1:1.5 to 1:2.5," said Fang. "The gentle slopes are more convenient for the migration of wild animals."
The building of the passages provides advantageous space for the migration of wild animals living along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. According to the railway construction department, in recent years, animals have frequently passed through the passages built here with no disruption to the construction work.
When inspecting the railway, officials from the State Environmental Protection Administration said that the passages conform to the lifestyle of wild animals and effectively helps protect the rare species.
The construction of the 33 passages has all been completed, according to the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Construction Headquarter.
The overall picture
So far, the central government has invested 2 billion yuan (US$242 million) into making the Qinghai-Tibet Railway a world-class, environmentally friendly railway, which accounts for eight percent of the total investment for the project, said Lu Chunfang, adding: "We intend to build a green corridor across the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau."
Tibetan antelopes, a world-level endangered species, face three major threats to their survival, according to the Science and Technology Department of northwest China's Qinghai Province. It was primarily to protect them that the central government set up the three nature reserves on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau including Hoh Xil.
This was built in 1998 in an area where antelope poaching is strictly prohibited. At the construction site of the ongoing Qinghai-Tibet Railway project, workers are ordered to stop construction when migrating antelopes pass the work site to give them free, undisturbed passage.
So far, the number of Tibetan antelopes in China has climbed to 80,000.
(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong, July 2, 2004)