China going ahead with upgrading road to Everest Base Camp

22 June, 2007:

China is going ahead with its plan to upgrade a road through the Tibet region to the Everest Base Camp. The work will be completed within three months, according to a Chinese official.

The upgrading of the existing 108-kilometre-long dirt road from the village of Tingri will cost 150 million yuan ($ 19.7 million).

China’s state media has said the building of a new surfaced, fenced road to the Everest Base Camp is aimed at making access easier for tourists and for the planned Olympic torch relay over the 8,844-metre summit of the world’s highest peak in 2008.

In a commentary, the official China Daily newspaper defended “development” of Tibet as simply “improving lives of people.” “We see no harm from better roads, more convenient communications and broader availability of power supplies,” the commentary added.

Several overseas Tibetan groups as well as activists seeking Tibet’s freedom from Chinese occupation have opposed the Olympic torch relay passing through the Tibet region, arguing that China will use it for political purposes.

The Bharatiya Janta Party, the main Opposition party in India, has expressed fears that China’s move to upgrade the road to the Everest Base Camp could be both an ecological disaster and another attempt by China to assert its influence over Tibet.

Meanwhile, China intends to double the number of tourists visiting Tibet to 6 million by 2010, from the 3 million forecast in 2007, according to Chinese state media. Over 90% of the estimated 2.5 million tourists who visited the region in 2006 were Chinese.

The opening of the first railway to Tibet in July 2006 had given a major boost to Tibet’s tourism sector, which is expected to generate nearly 6 billion yuan ($ 790 million) annually by 2010 – or 12% of the region’s gross domestic product.




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