Sunday 22 July 2007

China's Everest highway - development or disaster?

I can't resist publishing this ...

The recent announcement by the Chinese government to build and complete a highway to the world's highest peak - the 8,848-metre Mount Everest - has caused much concern among environmentalists the world over.

It has also resulted in security concerns in neighbouring countries - in particular India.

China's stated objective to seek peaceful and harmonious development is being questioned by all quarters.

The $20-million ambitious highway project - slated to be completed within the next four months - proposes to upgrade the existing 108km-long rough track from the Tingri County, Shigatse Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), to the northern base camp, at an altitude of 5,200 metres.

Mount Everest - which Tibetans call Chomolongma (Goddess Mother of Snow) and Nepalese call Sagarmatha (Mother of the Universe) - stands at the border of Nepal and Tibet. China has claims over the northern slope and Nepal over the southern.

China claims that the 'blacktop highway, fenced by undulating guardrails' will help transport next year's Olympic relay torch to the summit, as part of its 130-day, 137,000-kilometre odyssey across five continents - the longest torch relay to-date.

Everest is already on the brink of an ecological disaster - with climbers, tourists and pilgrims approaching from both the Nepal and Tibetan sides. The proposed highway will dramatically increase and facilitate easy access to the world's highest peak.

Moreover, the highway construction will involve fuel burning and tree felling, which will unsettle the fragile ecological balance. While there are no immediate plans to build hotels enroute, this has not been ruled out in the future.

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