China paves a road to Everest despite protests

Last updated on Jun 20, 2007

Posted on Jun 20, 2007

China is creating a paved road to Mount Everest base camp. This 110 km road will be completed by next August and may also have commercial interests – like hotels in the future.  It will go via Tibet to the base camp.

Despite the protests from the environmentalists, China is powering ahead with the project.  It wants it completed by the Beijing Olympics.  In fact, the torch would go all the way to the Mt Everest (Mt. Qomolangma, in Chinese).  It would be the longest torch relay in history crossing five continents, 137,000 km over 130 days.

India is, of course, not too happy with this development.  It could mean fresh security threat specially with the kind of infrastructure that China has already built in Tibet recently.

Here are some of the main concerns of the environmentalists though:

The highway is only the latest symbol of China’s fast-expanding highway network and an unsustainable (and politically charged) development that is tarnishing some of the country’s most valuable cultural and natural sites. For instance, the Qinghai-Tibet railway, completed last summer, has been blamed for threatening both the culture and nature of the Tibetan landscape and for strengthening China’s grip over a province that some insist should be independent. "On completion, the highway will become the major route for tourists and mountaineers who are crowding onto Mount Qomolangma, known in the west as Mount Everest, in ever larger numbers," Xinhua wrote. Paved roads, and their construction, is of course harmful to local organic life, air quality, and soil, all of which are especially sensitive in Tibet’s fragile environment. And aside from the obvious threats to Tibet’s cultural and natural heritage from increasing crowds of tourists (Japanese climber Ken Noguchi has recently returned from his latest clean-up trip on Everest, hauling off 1,100 pounds of trash), climate changes have led to a dramatic melting of the Tibetan glaciers, which feeds the vital Yangtze and Yellow Rivers.

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