Thursday, June 21, 2007

Engineering Triumph or Environmental Destruction?

China to build highway on Mt Everest for 2008 Olympics

Beijing, June 20 (PTI): China has started building a 108-km-long "highway" on Mt Everest from the Tibetan side so as to ease the path of those bearing the 2008 Beijing Olympics torch, but environmental concerns remain.

The construction of the road -- costing $ 19.7 million -- kicked off yesterday at Mt Everest Base Camp 5,200 meters above sea level.

It is not clear if the road construction project will affect the fragile environment of the Himalayan region. The planned 2008 Beijing Olympics flame ignition and torch relay over Mt Everest will not harm the fragile environment, Tibet's Communist Party chief Zhang Qingli said recently.

Some media reports have blamed the environmental changes of Tibet partly on the increase of tourists and mountaineers to this area, citing more modern facilities will be brought up the mountain to ensure the torch burning and television broadcast, which will then result in greater pollution.

The organisers of the torch relay has said the Olympics flame is expected to reach Mt Everest from the southern slope before the mountaineers carry it down along the northern slope.
The project aims to turn a 108-km rough road linking Tingri County of Xigaze Prefecture at the foot of the world's tallest mountain to the Base Camp into a blacktop highway fenced by undulating guardrails.

The project will take about four months. On completion, the highway will become the major route for tourists and mountaineers who are crowding onto Mt Everest in ever larger numbers, Xinhua news agency reported.

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