China has started mapping its largest area of uninhabited land to provide a detailed topography of Hoh Xil, a natural habitat for Tibetan antelopes and wild horses at least 4,000 meters above sea level.
A team of 13 experts have arrived in Hoh Xil this week for an intensive survey of the land. They are expected to complete a high-precision map at 1:50,000 before the end of 2010, said Liu Haiping, a cartography specialist based in Xining, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province.
He said the map will facilitate scientific research, energy exploitation and wildlife protection in the 83,000-sq-km area.
The mapping of Hoh Xil constitutes part of the country's effort to map the vast "blind area" in its west, an area covering deserts in southern Xinjiang, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Hengduan Ranges that run from the western Sichuan and Yunnan provinces to eastern Tibet.
The State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping launched a project last month to map this 2-million-sq-km area, which makes up at least 20 percent of the Chinese territory, said Liu.
In Qinghai Province alone, about 250,000 sq kms of land has not been mapped at 1:50,000, mostly in Hoh Xil, the Tanggula Mountain and lakes and swamps in the plateau, where cold, arid weather, thin air and little access for traffic make mapping extremely difficult, said Liu.
Hoh Xil is also spelt as "Kekexili". The place has become famous since the showing around China of a film about the life-and-death fight between antelope poachers and vigilantes there.
The film, by Chinese director Lu Chuan, was based on the true story of a journalist who joined a Tibetan volunteer patrol chasing poachers trading in antelope wool. It was the first film shot on the Chinese mainland ever to win best feature film award at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards - the Asian version of the Oscars.
(Xinhua News Agency May 31, 2006)