Construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railway is conducive to economic development in the Tibet Autonomous Region, according to Tibetan deputies to the Ninth National People's Congress, in session here since Monday.
Lobsang Gyaincain, mayor of Lhasa, the regional capital, said, "We hope construction of the railroad will be kicked off at the earliest possible date."
Tibet is the last region in China which has no access to railways, he said, adding that the absence of a modern transportation system has impeded economic development in the region.
Said another Lobsang, a 66-year old head of a neighborhood committee in Lhasa, "When transportation is developed, local people's lives will become better and there will be more alms giving to temples."
At present, per capita income in Tibet is only half of the national average. The majority of goods for daily use and materials for production needed by Tibet are transported from the interior areas of China. Inconvenient traffic has increased the cost for transporting goods produced in Tibet to other parts of the country.
Addressing the opening meeting of the fourth session of the Ninth NPC on Monday, Premier Zhu Rongji said that China would make concentrated efforts to build several key projects in the next five years, including the Qinghai-Tibet railway, which are of strategic significance for the country.
The 1,100-kilometer Qinghai-Tibet railway, running from Golmud of Qinghai Province to Lhasa, is the most elevated railroad in the world and a project which is expected to play an important role in enhancing exchanges between ethnic groups, the development of resources and economic development in western China and in consolidating national security.
Lobsang Gyaincain said that Tibetan deputies to the Eighth NPC had advanced, on behalf of local people in Tibet, a proposal on building a railway connecting Tibet with other parts of the country.
Lobsang said the railway will bring into Tibet modern concepts and living styles, but Tibetans' religious belief will always exist in Tibet. "In western countries with developed science, technology and transportation systems, aren't there many people who are religious believers?" asked Lobsang.
Yunzum Gawa, a Tibetan living Buddha, said that the railway will not affect religious affairs in Tibet, adding "I have not heard any voice against the project."
Lobsang Gyaincain said people in Tibet are making full preparations for the construction of the railway. "We hope the project launch ceremony will be held in Lhasa," he added.