High Adventure On China – Tibet Rail
Here is a fascinating first person account of the journey across the roof of the world by Jane Macartney of The Times.
“AS THE train climbed towards the highest railway pass on Earth, funny things began to happen. Pens leaked. Air-tight bags of crisps and peanuts burst open. Laptops crashed and MP3 players stopped working. Passengers began feeling nauseous, and some reached for their oxygen masks. A few were sick.
“But few of the 500 passengers on board were complaining. For railway buffs, this was as close as it came to paradise. We were on board the first passenger train to journey the 4,000km (2,500 miles) from Beijing to the ancient Tibetan capital of Lhasa and the final 1,110km yesterday took us up through the 5,072m (16,640ft) Tanggula Pass and across the roof of the world…”
While Boston Globe has an interesting story about three foreigners demonstrating in Beijing against the newly opened China-Tibet rail.
“In a rare protest by foreigners here, three Western activists who oppose China’s new rail link to Tibet clambered up the faÃ§ade of the central train station yesterday and unfurled a banner that read “China’s Tibet Railway: Designed to Destroy.”
“Within minutes, security officers detained the trio, pulled down the banner, and bundled the activists out of sight as curious travelers watched.
“The London-based Free Tibet Campaign identified the protesters as Kathy Ni Keefe, 36, of Sante Fe, N.M.; Katie Mallin, 34, of Britain; and Omi Hodwitz, a 29-year-old Canadian. They were released after three hours.”
Then there are environmental concerns. “Billed as the highest railway in the world, the Qinghai-Tibet line will run over 1000 kilometers from central China to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Environmental groups, including WWF, are concerned that the railway will threaten fragile ecosystems.
“With an average elevation of 4000 meters and covering an area of 2.5 million square kilometers, the Tibetan Plateau shelters a wide array of unique species, including the Tibetan antelope, Tibetan gazelle, wild yak, blue sheep, snow leopard, brown bear, Bengal tiger and black-necked crane.
“The plateau is also the source of almost all of Asia’s major rivers, including the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong and Indus.
“Because of its high elevation, the ecosystem here is extremely fragile,” said Dawa Tsering, Head of WWF China’s Program Office in Lhasa.
“Once damaged, it is extremely difficult to reverse. Integrating the needs of local development with conserving Tibet’s biodiversity is in need of urgent attention.”
“WWF and TRAFFIC plan on distributing brochures to train passengers and visitors to the region (in English and Chinese), asking them to refrain from buying products made from such endangered species as tigers and Tibetan antelopes.”
The WWF website also gives details about the environmental concerns in the Tibetan region.