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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 11:25, July 08, 2006
Tibet's economy welcomes new railway era
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In Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, commodity prices have been very high due to lack of transportation with inland. After the Qinghai-Tibet railway went into operation, the transportation cost was expected to be reduced by half. Tourism and special local products will face new opportunities.

Qinghai-Tibet railway will be the lifeline of happiness

Every morning, when Qiangbapuqiong opens his door, he will subconsciously peer at the other side of the road at the new railway platform there. Qiangbapuqiong's home is adjacent to Qinghai-Tibet highway which is also alongside the new railway.

"Lhasa railway station is only 40 kilometers away; this is the last station before Lhasa," he says excitely.

In fact, Qiangbapuqiong is not the only one who feels excited. In the neighboring village, 20 year old Ciwadanzeng agreed to go out to work with his friend. Learning that the train would pass through his village, he decided to wait and have a look at the train.

Many more feel excited about the railway

Why are people looking forward to the railway? What can the railway bring to them?

In Tangga village in Duilongdeqing County, there is a two storey building which is very special. In a courtyard in Tibet, 65 year old Qiangbapuqiong is washing a type of barley called Qingke in with his daughter-in-law. Never in his life has been outside of Tibet. Only when the railway was built near his home, could he have a look at the real train.

When the cargo train went into operation in March, he was shocked to hear the whistling. The light shake of the house also made him uneasy. But after a few months, he had already grown used to it. He is able to sleep through the noise of the train when it passes during the night.

In the past, Qiangbapuqiong sold cigarettes, wine and instant noodles at the bus station. Since the beginning of the railway project, he has started to think of opening some small business.

Wangdui in Liuwu village in Duilongdeqing County has also begun thinking about how to make some money with the railway. He is very smart, hearing the news that the railway would be built by his village; he immediately invested his money into a large truck to transport sand and stone for the construction project. The money he earned over the past two years exceeded his total earnings over the previous 8 or 9 years put together. Speaking of his next plan, he said he would like to open a restaurant near the railway station.

Qinghai-Tibet railway has created a lot of job opportunities for Tibetan people. It is estimated that the investment in the railway has brought 4 billion Yuan or US$ 500 million of direct or indirect economic revenue to the local people.

To Tibetans, the railway is just their lifeline for happiness. They hope the railway will bring them good luck and improve their living conditions and bring prosperity.

Last year, herdsmen's income reached 2,075 Yuan whilst urban citizens' income reached 8,411 Yuan. According to the 11th development plan, the herdsmen's income will increase by 13% every year. The reason for such a high goal is greatly linked to the railway believes an official from the Tibet reform and development committee.

Tibet's tourism will develop quickly due to the break of transportation bottleneck

Qiangbapuqiong only has one wish, that is to take the train back and forth several times between Maxiang near his home and Lhasa railway station to enjoy the experience as he feels he is getting old and has no plan to travel outside Tibet.

Tudan who is 4 years younger than Qiangbapuqiong vows to go wherever the train goes. Tudan has been head of Changmu village in Maxiang for 23 years.

Changmu village lies in a slope. Tudan's house is at the end of the village. There is a river between Tudan's home and the railway. But he can see that a black line comes from far away and then disappears. "That is Qinghai-Tibet railway, as long as I hear the whistle of the train, I will come out and have a look." said Tudan.

Tudan has a big building with 24 rooms on the first floor and 21 rooms on the second floor. He also has a big courtyard where there are ancient trees.

The second floor rooms are also decorated in ancient style. Tudan said that since the beginning of the railway project, he is determined to open a farmer's hotel. "When people from big cities come to Tibet, I will provide them with original Tibetan specialties. I am sure the family hotel will be prosperous". According to his plan, Tudan will try with his own home first and set a good example for other villagers. "My aim is to turn the whole village into a family hotel village with our special characteristics."

The direct benefit that the railway will bring to Tibet is a tourism industry. The beautiful natural environment and mysterious culture in the snow mountain will attract people all over the world. In 2004, the number of tourists in Tibet surpassed one million for the first time. Last year, it surpassed the record of 1.8 million with revenue of 1.93 billion Yuan.

"The opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway will make Tibet transportation complete with airways and highways. The bottleneck of the railway will be completely broken and the tourism industry will develop by leaps and bounces," said Liao Lisheng, director of the Office of Tibetan Tourism Bureau.

It is estimated that by 2010, the number of tourists going to Tibet will reach 5.28 million every year from next year and the direct economic income will be 5.81 billion Yuan or US$ 730 million.

Commodity price will be lower, local resource advantage will be made apparent

Tudan has six daughters and one son. He is very proud of his 24 year old son Luosangzhaxi who graduated from Tibet University in 2004. Luosangzhaxi voluntarily went to be a teacher to support teaching in a middle school in Chaya County in Changdu region. He happened to be home for holiday. He complained that the price in Tibet is too high.

"Why is the price high? Because the transportation is bad," said Luosangzhaxi.

In Lhasa, coal and cement can be sold as high as 800 Yuan a ton which is much higher than that in inland areas. A roll of film can be sold at a price of 80 Yuan and a chicken at 110 Yuan while in inland cities it is only 20 Yuan and 10 Yuan. It is estimated that the 100 Yuan purchase power in Tibet in fact equals to 54 Yuan in coastal regions. The commodities in Tibet are mostly transported by airplane from inland areas because the cost is too high, thus the price is even higher even though the product quality is not good.

People believe the railway will substantially increase the quantity of import from inland areas. It is predicted that 75% of the cargo will be transported by train between Tibet and inland areas. With the reductions in the cost of transportation, the retail price will hopefully be lowered too. Citizens' consumption expenditure will fall but their living standards could be increased.

Wang Taifu, an expert in Tibetan social science academy said Tibetan people will directly benefit from the railway because not only will it help lower the price, but also promote tourism, reduce transportation cost, expand economic exchange with inland areas and regional mineral resources exploration.

Due to special natural environment in Tibet, there are special natural resources there. For example, Tibetan medicine and yak products will be exported to inland market.

Renqing is a villager in Shannan region in Southern Tibet. He cannot see the railway or hear the train. But he also cares about the railway because he wants to export his wool product to other provinces. "If one uses trucks or airplane, the cost will be very high, but the train will be faster and cheaper," Renqing said.

It is expected that the opening of the railway will decrease the cost of transportation in general from 0.38 Yuan to 0.12 Yuan. Tibetan resource advantage will soon be turned into economic advantage.

Of course, with the economic opportunities, Tibet didn't neglect environment protection either. They are taking active and effective measures to deal with the environment impact brought by the railway. The region also strictly prevents the enterprise which use coal from moving to Tibet. They are going to build waste water disposal factories and garbage landfills along the railway line.

By People's Daily Online

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