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World's 'Highest' Railway Environment-friendly: SEPA

The construction of the Qinghai-Tibet rail line does not threaten the fragile eco-system of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the source of most of China's major waterways, said China's environment watchdog organization in Beijing Friday at a press conference.


Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said that measures have been taken to effectively protect water sources, frozen earth, wetlands, vegetation and migration routes for wild animals.


The 1,956-km-long Qinghai-Tibet railway, which links Xining, Qinghai's capital in northwest China, with Lhasa capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region, records the highest elevation of any rail line in the world, reaching 5,072 meters above sea level at Tanggula Range.


Because the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has a vulnerable, high-altitude eco-system with thin air and cold temperatures, once vegetation is damaged, it cannot be easily restored. Therefore, despite its 2 billion yuan (US$241 million) environmental investment, the railway project has drawn concerns about possible environmental losses from home and abroad.


Pan elaborated on the five measures which have been taken to minimize losses:


-- Removing vegetation from construction sites and restoring it after finishing the work.


-- Building the line away from natural zones and confine construction work to a smallest possible scope along the line. At some sections, passages for wild life to migrate have been set up.


-- Detouring around wetlands and lakes, and when impossible, building bridges rather than roads to minimize the damage to land surface.


-- Using heat preservation material to fill in the base to keep a stable frozen earth layer along the line.


-- Minimize the number of stations along the line to reduce human waste and installing water treatment facilities in every station. Recycled water is forbidden from going into local waterways directly.  


(Xinhua News Agency September 25, 2004)

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