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Meeting Addresses Challenges in Railway Building
Workers and engineers building the Qinghai-Tibet Railway were encouraged in their battle against major technical problems -including the permafrost, the lack of oxygen at high altitudes and the challenge of environmental protection - at a meeting to devise next year's construction plan.

Minister of the State Development Planning Commission Zeng Peiyan made the comments yesterday regarding the railway, the majority of which will be built on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau over 4,000 metres above sea level.

As much as 5.3 billion yuan (US$638 million) is expected to be invested in the project by the end of this year. With respect to the laying of tracks for the Golmud-Mount Kunlun section, which began in June last year, 121 kilometres have been completed so far. Engineering work on the Mount Kunlun-Mount Tanggula section, on permafrost, has also begun.

Zeng, who is also head of the national leading group of the railway, said significant achievements have been made in the course of building the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, especially in the areas of environmental protection and labour security.

"But the task in 2003 is more demanding as natural conditions are adverse and most of the work will be done in uninhabited areas," said Zeng.

Zeng said the quality of the work completed to date has been assessed quite favourably and every effort has been made to ensure the safety of workers. Thus far, there have been no casualties resulting from the high altitude.

Because the ecology along the new railway is fragile, he added, special attention has been paid to environmental protection during the entire process of rail design and construction.

Zeng said about 190 kilometres is expected to be completed next year.

The 1,956-kilometre railway extends from Xining, capital of Northwest China's Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in Southwest China. It will be the first railway to link Tibet with the rest of China.

The section between Xining and Golmud was completed in 1984 and areas surrounding it were covered with grass and trees. Work on the line connecting Golmud with Lhasa started in June 2001 and is expected to be completed by 2007.

Recently, the central government decided to invest 1.2 billion yuan (US$145 million) to cover the slopes on both sides of the railway with cold-resistant grass to form a "green great wall" on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The roots of the grass will help stabilize the soil while the grass itself will protect both the roadbed and the slopes from heavy rain.

(China Daily December 13, 2002)

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