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Village Linked to Outside World
A new highway in a remote border area of the Tibet Autonomous Region opened to traffic this week, linking the 18 residents of China's smallest village to the outside world.

From June 1999 to last month, central and local governments spent 40 million yuan (US$4.8 million) to build the 46.37-kilometer-long highway to Yumen Village, Xinhua news agency reported.

The village is not on most maps. It is located in the Lhoka area neighboring the Indian border, some 550 kilometers from Lhasa, the autonomous region capital.

Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and virgin forest, transportation from the village to Lhasa had been blocked by a 5,000-meter-high mountain and marshlands.

Before 1997, the village was populated by only a three-member Tibetan family. In recent years, another 15 people came to live there from other villages. All were poor farmers.

Zhoigar, who lives in Yumen, said the village's poverty is a result of lack of access to the outside world.

"The new highway will enable us to broaden our vision. Via the highway, we can go out to sell our vegetables, to work, and we can also welcome tourists to our village," she said.

By 2010, China is expected to complete construction of nine artery roads in the west. To eliminate poverty, it will build about 150,000 kilometers of roads linking villages.

Meanwhile, the government will pool 700 billion yuan to renovate 350,000 kilometers of roads before 2005, said Huang Zhendong, minister of communications.

Said Chang Sheng, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference from Lopa, a small ethnic group in Tibet, the strategy of developing the western regions has led to increasing infrastructure investment in Tibet.

He said that out of 55 ethnic minority groups, 52 live in the less-developed west. Therefore, ethnic minorities will be the biggest beneficiaries of the strategy.

Meanwhile, experts said the ecological construction in the western region to return farmland to forest or grassland will generate great economic benefits.

The west, especially the Loess Plateau, is ideal for planting purple medic, a kind of high-quality pasture grass for stockbreeding, they said.

One hectare of purple medic will produce 60,000 kilograms of grass valued at nearly 7,000 yuan, doubling the profit from grain.

According to the 10th Five-Year Plan, five provinces and autonomous regions in the west - Shanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, and Xinjiang - will turn more than 4 million hectares of farmland back into grassland.

In addition, a project to plant vegetation on bare mountains will be kicked off in the hilly areas of the western region. The provinces of Qinghai and Shanxi are planning to plant grass in an area of more than 2.8 million hectares.

(eastday.com November 8, 2001)

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