Keeping open the lifeline to Tibet

Updated: 2013-10-28 07:38

By Hu Yongqi and Li Yingqing in Deqen, Yunnan (China Daily)

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A new highway

Zhou said that the heavy loads he carries mean that he often uses water to cool the wheel bearings on his truck with water. On winter nights, however, surface water turns to ice, making progress even more dangerous. "You can't use the brakes at night because of the ice, because your vehicle might flip over," he said.

To make the journey less risky, the Diqing government employed Sichuan Hydropower Investment and Management Group and other companies to construct a new highway that will run parallel to the existing one. The Shangri-La-Deqen Highway, with total investment of 6.52 billion yuan ($1.07 billion), will be the highest of the 52 national highways in the province. By the end of September, the project had already eaten up 5.3 billion yuan of the budget.

When the new highway is finally finished, the distance by road between the county seats will be shortened to 152 km and the journey time by bus will be reduced by two hours, from six to four, according to the transport bureau. A series of tunnels will also result in fewer twists and turns along the route.

When it comes to large infrastructure projects, such as the new highway, Diqing has been plagued by low temperatures, the thin atmosphere and its distance from production bases.

"It doesn't matter how hard the work is, we have to complete the project in accordance with the contract," said Yang.

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Guo Anfei contributed to the story.