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Global Warming Threatens Tibet Rail Link

Date: 24-Jun-05
Country: CHINA

The pan-Himalayan rail project, which began in 1958, eight years after Chinese troops invaded Tibet, is expected to be finished by the end of this year.

"By 2050, safe operation of the Qinghai-Tibet railway will be affected if temperatures keep rising steadily as observed over past decades," Luo Yong, deputy director of China's National Climate Centre, was quoted as saying.

Winter and summer temperatures on the Tibetan plateau could jump as much as 3.4 degrees Celsius (6.1 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050, causing normally frozen ground under the rail line to melt, the China Daily said.

Many climatologists considered the plateau a "magnifier" of global climate change and an indicator of warming trends across East Asia, it said.

The railway will span 2,040 km (1,270 miles) from Xining in Qinghai province, to the capital of Tibet, Lhasa.

China says the rail link will promote development and help raise living standards in the impoverished region, while Tibet activists say it will speed up the pace of Chinese migration to the area and dilute Tibetan culture.

Luo issued his warning at a symposium on climate change in Beijing, which has been simmering under temperatures as high as 40 C (104 F) this week in a heat wave that has struck much of northern China.

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