Zhang Qingli, Communist Party chief of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said Wednesday that priority should be given to protect the fragile environment in the region, emphasizing it will be nearly impossible to recover once damaged.
Zhang, also a deputy to the National People's Congress, said Tibet is experiencing newly-emerging environmental problems including pasture degradation, desertification, sandstorms, and soil erosion.
"Environmental protection is a prerequisite to economic growth, which must not be achieved at the cost of nature," he said.
Zhang noted the regional government will launch major programs to protect natural reserves, tackle pasture degradation and desertification, and step up efforts on the supervision of the local ecosystem.
The environment on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, source to major Asian rivers and one of the world's most important species gene bank, has attracted global attention since the 1,956-km-long Qinghai-Tibet railway went into operation in July 2006.
He said central and local governments countrywide have invested huge amounts of money in environmental protection in the region since the construction of the railway began.
(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2007)