New road links remote Tibet county to rest of the country

Updated: 2013-11-01 07:03

By Wang Huazhong in Lhasa (China Daily)

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A highway that officially opened on Thursday links Medog county in the Tibet autonomous region to the rest of the country, ending the county's status as the only one in China inaccessible by road.

Experts said the road will help safeguard China's sovereignty and territory, as the county borders India, but more importantly, it will improve the lives and well-being of Medog's 10,000 people.

New road links remote Tibet county to rest of the country

Tibetans in traditional clothing and holding hada — a scarf-like white silk for blessings — celebrate the opening of a 117-km highway linking Medog, the last roadless county in China,with neighboring Bome county in the Tibet autonomous regionon Thursday. Construction of the highway, which cost 950 million yuan ($155 million), started in April 2009. [Photo by Li Lin/China News Service]

The 117-km highway connects Bomi county with the main town of Medog county, which is called "the elusive lotus" in Buddhist sutras.

The old path that linked Medog with the rest of China has been called the country's "most beautiful" yet also its "most dangerous", as it has unstable land formations and intensive rainfall.

The new road descends sharply from its starting point at the county border, 4,300 meters above sea level and covered by snow year-round, to the forest-surrounded county seat at an altitude of 1,300 meters.

Landslides and avalanches were prevalent in the past.

"Mountain peaks hide in the clouds while the foot of the mountain is close to a great river. You can hear others speaking, but need days to walk to them," according to a folk song that describes the rugged landscape.

The opening is the fifth time since the 1950s that the central and local governments have worked on the road.

The latest work, which began in 2009, received 950 million yuan ($156 million) from the State Council.

Lobsang Jamcan, chairman of the Tibet autonomous region government, announced the official opening of the road 30 km from the Medog county seat at 11 am on Thursday.

The road is open eight months a year and will operate year-round if weather conditions permit.

The road maintenance team currently has two teams of workers with three loaders and two patrol cars to clear stones and snow.

Strategists said the road brings benefits in "not just one single aspect".

"Similar to the Qinghai-Tibet railway, the road reaching China's border area can help consolidate our remote land and ensure stability," said Sun Hongnian, a researcher at the Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"But more importantly, it will improve the 10,000 residents' lives, mobility and economy."

Local officials told China Daily the county did not have its own post office or electronic appliance store until 2009. Some business people attracted by favorable investment policies in the county scrapped their plans because they found Medog did not have business administration and taxation bureaus in 2011.

Even today, the county has yet to build a bus station.

Before the road was put into operation, it took porters over a week to carry goods into or out of Medog.

When the old path was blocked, the price of commodities and daily necessities soared, with a hen selling for 150 yuan in the market.

Padma Dradul, a member of the Monba ethnic group and deputy Party head of Dexing village, said the road will open not just Medog itself, but its people's minds as well.

"The elusive lotus is flowering. More people getting contact with the outside world are working hard to change their hometown because they don't want to be lagging behind or forgotten."