''Melting permafrost may endanger Tibet railways within decade''
Dharamsala, Apr 24 (UNI) Thawing permafrost on the Ginghal-Tibet plateau can treathen the safe operation of railways, which has been recently opened for freight, and will also start unmanned test runs next month, exiled Tibetan government based here claimed today.
Highly placed sources in the exiled government said despite these warnings of the possible limited timeline for the railway project the Chinese authorities have described it as the ''centerpiece'' of China's western development campaign.
The new images of the railway development obtained by Tibetan agencies revealed the new station in Lhasa as well as depicting early indicators of the environmental impact of the 33 billion yuan (4 billion dollars) project, which had been prioritised by the Chinese authorities as a key element of the People's Republic of China (PRC's) drive to develop the western regions, including Tibet, sources said.
Sources also said the statements in the Chinese media over the past three months had warned that rising temperatures on the Ginghai-Tibet plateau could lead to the melting permafrost, threatening the viability of railway network in just a decade's time.
The impact of thawing permafrost on the plateau was first reported in the Chinese press last year, but it was then estimated that it would be threatened only after 45 years.
However, Prof Wu Ziwang, a senior expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Frozen Soil Laboratory), was quoted as saying, ''Due to the melting permafrost, I am worried that after ten years the railroad will be unsafe.'' ''Fast thawing of frozen soil in the plateau might greatly increase the instability of the ground, causing more grave geological problems in the frozen soil areas where major projects such as highways or railways run through...The chances could thraten the railway in a decade,'' he added.
Approximately 550 km of the Ginghai-TAR rail track runs on frozen earth.
Quoting reports, sources said the Chinese media had reported in December last year that the railroad would begin a full-route trial opertion for commercial passenger transportation in July 2006, six months earlier than expected, and that cargo transportation was available from March onwards.
Referring to the recent reports in the Chinese media this month pointing to the consequences of Tibetan plateau warming, sources of the CTA asserted that the phenomena of water springing from dry areas and the flooding of lakes in Nagchu are its results.
There was every likelihood that Chinese authorities would play up the inaugural event by inviting foreign media to cover the opening ceremony and record the history of first train entering Tibet through Quinghai-Tibet, including highlighting the event that China establishes a 'Sky Railway'.
UNI XC SB GC1428