Friday, March 20, 2015

'Comprehensive' infrastructure development on the Roof of the World

The Mainling Airport, north of the LAC
While the Tibetan Diaspora continues to debate which paths to take for future Tibet (Independence or the Middle Path), China is building up at mad pace its infrastructure on the Roof of the World: whether it is expansion of existing airports, new highways or railway lines.
And there is no question of debate or discussions for China, Beijing is just forging ahead rapidly.
I have already mentioned the roads to the border in a recent post.

Expansion of airports
China Tibet Online announced a few days ago that, on March 15, the construction of an expansion project for Mainling County Airport in Nyingchi (Nyingtri) Prefecture, north of the Indian border of Arunachal, has started.
That is not all, the Lhasa Gongkar Airport and Chamdo Bangda Airport are also being expended “to ease the pressure of increasing passenger traffic coming in and out of Tibet.”
Let us remember that 15 million Chinese tourists visited the Roof of the World (TAR only) in 2014.
The reports says that Mainling/Nyingchi Airport is located in the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) valley at an attitude of 2,900 meters (it is the ‘lowest’ airport in Tibet).
China Tibet Online adds that this is part of China's “efforts to raise Tibet’s civil aviation capacity and safety standards, while also supporting Tibet’s economic and social development.”
In other words, the policy to ‘invade’ Tibet with tourism will continue.
The website states that “At the start of the second half of 2014, 800 million yuan (US$ 130 million) were invested in ‘airport expansion projects’ in Lhasa, Chamdo, and Nyingchi.
Wang Dasong, director of the Mainling Airport explained that the project had been officially sanctioned in June 2014: “[it] was based on the need to meet estimated passenger traffic of 750,000 people and a targeted cargo handling capacity of 3,000 tons by the year 2020.”
It will include a new 10,360-square-meter terminal, a 3,000-square-meter 'comprehensive' [everything is 'comprehensive these days in China] safe house, a new fire station and some pump stations; the restoration of the old terminal will cost 270 million yuan (US$ 45 million).
This airport is the most strategic airport vis-a-vis the Indian border in Arunachal as it is located a few kilometers north of the McMahon line (LAC) only.
Lhasa Gongkar Terminal

For the Lhasa airport, the 12th Five-Year Plan  allotted 170 million yuan for the relocation of the Gongkar Airport air traffic control tower. The work started in March 2015.
While in Chamdo, the construction of a second runway has begun in November 2014.
A Chinese official website explains: “In recent years, the growth rate of tourists entering Tibet has been comparatively large, especially during the peak tourism season, due to the rapid development of tourism in Tibet as well as increasingly strong international ties. So much so, that it is often the case that ‘one plane ticket is hard to get’, which prompted a need for Tibet Airlines to increase their transportation capacity.”
For Beijing, this is always good as these airports can also be used for military purposes, if need be.
The number of flights is also expanding. On March 19, Xinhua announced the opening of a new flight between Guangzhou Baiyun Airport and Nyingchi Mainling Airport.
China Southern Airline will now fly non-stop between Guangzhou and Nyingchi on every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The flight time is about three and a half hours. Comparatively, it used to take a night and two days for the same travel. "The new line is more convenient and efficient", says Xinhua.

Railway lines
An indication of what is coming in terms of railways could be heard during the Two Sessions recently held in Beijing.
The same China Tibet Online reported: “During the ongoing national ‘Two Sessions', a proposal submitted by Losang [Lobsang?] Sherdun, a CPPCC member from western Tibet's Ngari Prefecture, highlighted how the locals in his region have expectations for a railway.”
Lhasa Railway Station
Losang said: “Though a number of projects have consistently lead to a higher quality of life, where the people of Ngari lag behind is in transportation infrastructure, which has had an impact on the regional economic and social development.”
Losang/Lobsang is said to be Vice Chairman of the regional CPPCC of Ngari Prefecture.
For Beijing, it is an indirect way to announce the forthcoming railway line: one ‘deputy’ requesting the Central Government to help the masses.
In turn, it will help the masses  ...of Chinese tourists and ...the PLA posted near the Ladakh border.
The Tibetan deputy affirmed: “with the rapid development of tourism in Ngari and the progress of China's Western Development plans, passenger and freight volume in and out Ngari have been rising annually by an average of 45 percent. But the major means of transportation in the region remains road transportation, with support from air transportation [Ngari airport], which in itself is very limited and hinders the exports of locally produced goods.”
Losang’s 'proposal' is likely to be 'accepted' by the Central Government in Beijing: extension of the Southern Xinjiang Railway and Lhasa-Shigatse Railway to Ngari will ‘provide a rare opportunity for Ngari’, commented the website.
But that is not all. The Sichuan delegation at the National People's Congress made a similar request: “thee Sichuan-Tibet railway [lines] should be incorporated into the country's next five-year plan.”
The delegation requested Beijing for a special fund allotted for the 1,800-kilometer line which will connect Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, to Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. It will cost some 200 billion yuan (US $32 billion).
As mentioned earlier, the construction of Lhasa to Nyingchi and the Chengdu to Ya'an lines started last year.
The delegation was particularity keen on 2 sections, i.e. Ya'an to Kangding and from Kangding to Nyingchi. It should start during the current year, they requested.
The Chinese website concluded: “After completion, the railway will form a ring with the Qinghai-Tibet line, which began operation in 2006. …The 13th Five-Year Plan will cover 2016 to 2020. By the time it gets underway, Sichuan will have nearly 7,000 kilometers of railway.”
Wei Hong, Sichuan's Governor affirmed during the Beijing Meet that the railway will improve regional transportation capacity and integrate Tibet more closely with other parts of China and …it will play an important role for the proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, ‘promoting ethnic unity and stability.’
How the railway lines in the landlocked Sichuan will help the Maritime Silk Road is however not clear?
Any excuse is probably good to get funds in China.

Developments of Roads and Highways
Same tactic for the roads and highways: Beijing asked the ethnic faces to make a ‘request’ for the masses.
Gyare Lozang Tenzin, a Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region declared in Beijing: "The length of highways opened to traffic in Tibet reaches 70,591 kilometers, but there is still no expressway in the real sense in Tibet."
China Tibet Online commented: “In July 2014, China's Ministry of Transport reported that China aims to extend highways in the Tibet Autonomous Region to 110,000 kilometers, expand railways to 1,300 kilometers, and increase travel by civil aviation to seven million passenger journeys by 2020.”
Xinhua reported that Tibet had invested 16.1 billion yuan (3 billion US $) into road construction in 2014, opening 4,332-kilometer new roads to traffic.
This is in addition to the Lhasa-Shigatse railway which was inaugurated in August 2104.
Xinhua admited: “Even though Tibet's transportation has seen leapfrog development in recent years, the conditions and networks in remote agricultural and pastoral areas still need further improvement.”
And as mentioned earlier on this blog, more and more roads leading to the Indian border are being built: “In recent years, road traffic rapidly develops in Nyingchi prefecture, especially in rural areas. Data shows that the total length of road up to 5,351 kilometers in Nyingchi Prefecture, and the rate of road access in towns and villages respectively occupy 96.3 pct. and 95.7 pct."
On the Indian side, the Border Road Organisation (BRO) is still struggling against inertia, bureaucracy, corruption, difficult terrain and other difficulties.

A consoling news?
The Chinese Defence Ministry recently affirmed that a road linking a village on border with Vietnam to Chinese city 100 km away would 'definitely be serious threat to national defence and security'.
The South China Morning Post reported: "China’s People’s Liberation Army halted a city government’s road construction project on the border with Vietnam last month because of fears it could be used as a shortcut for a 'Vietnamese invasion'."
A PLA officer in charge of border affairs in Fangchenggang city, in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region said that if finished, the road would “definitely become a serious threat to national defence and security”.
The two-lane road would have linked the village of Tansan, on the border with Vietnam, to the centre of Fangchenggang city, about 100 km away.
The PLA warned the residents of Tansan about the rationale of the move: "If war broke out between the nations, Vietnamese troops could use the road to launch an attack on the Chinese army."
Well, I always thought that it is an old Indian theory, held in the 1950s by the Indian ministry of Defence and External Affairs: "let us not built roads in NEFA, the Chinese can use them!!".
China even steals India's War Theories now!

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