By Sutirtho Patranobis | Hindustan Times
ON THE WEB, 9 March 2021
Beijing will pump in nearly $30 billion in expanding “transportation infrastructure” projects across Tibet – the Chinese province with the longest section of the border with India – over the next five years, according to an announcement made in Lhasa last week.
About 190 billion yuan ($29.3 billion) will be channelised into building new expressways and upgrading existing highways and improving road connectivity in the remote and largely rural areas of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) – the second-largest province in China – state media agency Xinhua reported, quoting TAR’s transportation department.
“Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China is planning to spend about 190 billion yuan in the 2021-2025 period on transportation infrastructure projects,” the report said.
“The money will be used on building new expressways, upgrading existing highways and improving the road conditions in rural areas, among other fields, according to the regional transportation department,” it said.
“By 2025, the total mileage of highways in Tibet will exceed 120,000km, and that of expressways will exceed 1,300km,” TAR’s transportation department said in a statement shared in the Xinhua report.
The announcement was made last week in Lhasa, the provincial capital of TAR, coinciding with the annual session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, in Beijing.
The push to boost connectivity and transport infrastructure in the massive province fits in with Beijing’s overall strategy to strengthen border security and road networks against the backdrop of the worst military standoff with India in decades.
Tibet’s transportation infrastructure has seen “marked improvement” in the 2016-2020 period.
“Its road network reached a total length of 118,800km at the end of last year, up over 50% from the end of 2015,” according to the regional transportation department.
China has separately pumped in billions of dollars in building a rail network through a difficult terrain in south-eastern Tibet, near the border with Arunachal Pradesh.
Dual-use airports, from where both military and civil aviation can operate, have also been built at strategic locations in TAR.
Chinese military experts believe that building infrastructure in TAR is important for ensuring an efficient military logistics system in the remote region.
China has other ambitious plans for the frontier province.
On Friday, it was revealed that it was planning to build a “passageway” connecting Tibet with South Asia.
China is also undertaking a massive dam project in Medog county near the border with Arunachal Pradesh.
The “Yarlung Tsangpo downstream hydropower base” was listed in China’s new five-year plan last week as one of the country’s major energy development projects for the 2021-2025 period.