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China promises eco-friendly expansion in Antarctica
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China's largest-ever development project of its two Antarctic research stations will make them more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, said an official with the State Oceanic Administration on Tuesday.

"We have given full consideration to energy and environmental issues since we started the planning phase of the expansion project," said Wei Wenliang, Party Secretary of the administration's Polar Research Office.

A total of 189 construction workers left from Shanghai on Tuesday to begin the biggest expansion of the two permanent Antarctic stations -- Changcheng (Great Wall) and Zhongshan Later, on November 12, one hundred eighty eight members of the country's 24th scientific expedition team will depart for the station.

The expansion plans include improved day-lighting and thermal insulation. Heating facilities will be installed or altered to improve efficiency.

Wei said that rooms for researchers to stay in during the summer and winter will be in separate divisions and some of the rooms will be closed during wintertime to save energy.

"All the materials we consume are shipped from home, so making energy efficient buildings means both lower operating costs and a direct cut on pollution," Wei said.

The Changcheng Station was founded in 1985 and the Zhongshan Station in 1989. Both are located within the outer regions of the Antarctica coastline. Wei said earlier that because of technological limitations in the 1980s, construction materials for the two stations were not satisfactory and parts of the buildings have corroded.

The workers, all from the China Railway Construction Engineering Group (CRCEG), will construct 10 projects within two to three years, including a space observation station, a garage, a warehouse, garbage and sewage disposal systems, a boiler house, a high-frequency radar room and an oil tank.

State of the art information technology will be applied in the new facilities, with satellite TV, local area network and the Internet all in place to help information exchanges.

Penguins near Antarctic research stations

To protect the Antarctic environment, the group has built advanced sewage treatment systems and garbage burning facilities. Non-degradable and solid waste is shipped back home for treatment.

Strict environmental protection rules were also imposed on China's scientific exploration ship "Xuelong", or "Snow Dragon", and dumping garbage in the ocean is forbidden.

China's third research station on Antarctica will be built at the highest point of the Polar icecap, which peaks at 4,300 meters above sea level, a point known as Dome A. This will be China's first research station in the inland area of Antarctica.

(Xinhua News Agency November 7, 2007)

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