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More Roads to Improve Tibet's Contacts
China is to reinforce communications and exchanges with its neighbouring South Asian countries with a huge investment in building roads from Tibetan inland cities to the region's border areas.

The plans include building or improving six so-called thoroughfares to strengthen China's national defence along the 4,000-kilometre frontier in the Tibet Autonomous Region, according to Ran Shipin, a general engineer of the region's communications department.

The State is also expected to pour 1.03 billion yuan (US$124.5 million) into building roads connecting 14 army stations along the frontier with other areas in the region, Ran said.

The six highways - Ranniao-Sama, Zedang-Tsornar, Renbuk-Yardong, Lhaze-Zhungmu, Barga-Puran and Nabru-Shibuchey - will end in major cities such as Puran, Zhungmu and Yardong and link up the neighbouring countries of Myanmar, India, Bhutan and Nepal.

Ran said the region has vowed to build or improve these routes because they are not completely connected in some sections and are frequently blocked by floods, land and snow slides.

According to Ran, total investment in the construction of these six roads is expected to run up to 2.5 billion yuan (US$301 million).

He said the Lhaze-Zhungmu road, with an investment of 650 million yuan (US$78.3 million), the Ranniao-Sama, with 150 million yuan (US$18.1 million), and Barga-Puran, with 60 million yuan (US$7.2 million), should be completed by 2005.

"Once these medium and high-grade roads are finished, major border cities will be linked with the region's skeleton highway system, which greatly promotes the development of the region's border trade," Ran said.

Zhungmu, which is the largest border port in the region and only 120 kilometres away from Katmandu, capital of Nepal, is expected to double its annual border trade volume from the current US$100 million after the completion of the Lhaze-Zhungmu road, he said.

Gyamtsok, director of the department, has pledged to "attach great attention to environment protection" during construction.

"We will conduct a thorough environment survey before we start building, and all proposals will be subject to the approval of the State Environment Protection Bureau, to make sure everything go right," Gyamtsok said.

Talking about the region's transportation development plan in the next five years, Gyamtsok said roads will be built through to Metok, the only county in China without roads to the outside.

(China Daily 05/25/2001)