Mt. Everest road

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

China To Deface Sacred Mt Everest By Building Paved Road To Base Camp

[London]China announced today that it has started work to pave a road leading to the base camp of Mt Everest [Tib: Mt Qomolongma] on the Tibetan side of the mountain. Official news agency, Xinhua,(1) reported that the road will ease the progress of the Olympic torch’s journey to the summit during the Olympic Torch Relay next year and that it will also ease the journey of the growing numbers of tourists traveling to the base camp.(2)
“China’s motivation for building the road is political” said Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign.”China has long been determined to route the Olympic Torch over Mt Everest during the Chinese section of the relay in order to emphasise its spurious claims to sovereignty over Tibet. Building a permanent road to Mt Everest will scar irreparably the world's most iconic mountain. The road is also symptomatic of China's determination more generally to concrete over Tibet's beautiful and fragile environment, transforming it into a mere tourist attraction with scant regard for either the environmental cost or the religious sensitivities of the Tibetan people.”

Following the opening of the Gormo-Lhasa Railway in July last year, China has relentlessly promoted tourism to Tibet, with the number of tourists arriving in Tibet in the first half of 2007 soaring over the number for the equivalent period in 2006. Chinese media reported yesterday that the number of tourists expected to travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region [TAR] in 2010 is 6 million(3) despite the current population of the TAR being approximately 2.5 million. The influx of tourists is exerting an unsustainable strain on Tibet’s environment. A Tibetan talking to Tibet Watch(4), in Dharamsala after returning from Tibet in November 2006 said: “I had the impression, while I went to Potala for pilgrimage that the holy places have become tourist attractions…and that the monasteries were like museums.”

Notes to Editor:

The 108 km (67 miles) road will cost 150 million yuan (US $20m) and will take 4 months to complete.

Tibet Watch is a research organization with charitable status and is a sister-organization to Free Tibet Campaign.