An increasing number of vehicles are roaring into the mysterious
highland of Tibet, figures of an official report on Tibetan economy
According to the Economy and Social Development Report of Tibet
2006 released by the Tibetan branch of China's National Statistics
Bureau, the autonomous region had 143,900 civil vehicles by the end
of 2006, a jump of 35.2 percent from a year earlier, Xinhua
The number of cars, which may be humbled by inland, especially
coastal, Chinese cities, is a remarkable increase nonetheless in
the remote and thinly populated region. With a population of 2.81
million, currently about 1 in every 20 Tibetans owns a private
The traditional Tibetan travel necessities of a horse, rifle,
and sword are quickly transitioning into an engine.
Middle school teacher Mima drives a homemade off-road in Lhasa,
the capital. "It's seven kilometers between home and the school.
And I love to drive out of town to take photographs," he said. This
is the third vehicle that Mima has bought in the past two years, as
he attaches great importance on sporting performance.
Integration of Tibet as a tourist destination into the national
economy has brought both opportunities and vehicle sales to
Tibetans. Ge Sang Da Wa, previously a herdsman then a cargo
delivery driver in the western town of Ali, sold his truck last
year and bought a jeep to serve tourists streaming into Tibet
through the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.
Today among Tibetan young people, it's no longer livestock or
jewels to be used in judging a family's wealth, but owning a car or
With the convenience and efficiency brought about by the modern
machinery into herdsmen's lives, the well-preserved land is
beginning to take on baneful symptoms - environmental concerns
aroused by intensified vehicle emissions, traffic congestion, and
scarce parking lots.
Sometimes, "bumper-to-bumper cars chock the streets for half an
hour at the heaviest commute hours," said Lamu, who works near
Lhasa's city center.
(China Daily March 30, 2007)