Qinghai-Tibet Railway Kicks off
Opening ceremonies were held respectively at the railway's starting point, Golmud in Qinghai Province, and the terminal, Lhasa in Tibet, Friday morning.
The two sites for the opening ceremony were decorated with auspicious Tibetan designs, colorful buntings, flags and balloons. The sound of gongs and drums resounded in the air. Tens of thousands of people of Han, Tibetan and other ethnic groups cheered and clapped.
Jiang Zemin, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chinese President, sent a congratulatory letter to mark the opening of the project.
Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji announced the start of construction project at a ceremony held in Golmud, a major city in northwest China's Qinghai Province.
Zhu said that construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway reflects the aspiration of China's late leaders and railway constructors. And it is the common desire of the Tibetan people.
"The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which runs through the 'roof of the world', is an unprecedented project in the history of humankind," he added.
The railway starts at Golmud in Qinghai Province and terminates at Lhasa in Tibet with a total length of 1,118 km. It will be the longest and most elevated railway built on highlands in the world. It will be the first railway in Tibet.
As early as the 1950s, late CPC chairman Mao Zedong and other senior Chinese leaders endorsed the construction of the Qinghai- Tibet Railway. The central government of China officially approved the gigantic project in western China early this year.
Some 100 lamas from the Zhebung Monastery of Tibet attended the opening ceremony. Ngagwang Qoinzin, 35, said, "This is a project of boundless beneficence."
Qoinpe, a 60-year-old resident of Lhasa, said, "I got up at four in the morning today. I became unable to sleep when I thought of the project."
People living along the railway line are pinning high hopes on the project. Decog, a Tibetan girl in Qinghai Province, said, "I am very excited to attend the opening ceremony on behalf of my fellow villagers."
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway is a key project in China's Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-2005) period and one of the four major projects to be built in western China.
Representatives of the 10 construction teams, selected from 32 bidders, also attended the ceremony in Golmud.
Xia Xianfang, a senior engineer of the No.1 Survey and Designing Institute under the Ministry of Railways, said, "We are capable of reducing the effects of construction on the local environment to the minimum. Every inch of grass will be protected. "
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