On 21 June 2007, the Chinese government revealed plans to pave a road from Tingri, Tibet, to the base camp of Mount Everest. The purpose of this road is to aid the transportation of the official Beijing Olympic torch up Mount Everest. The project will be 67 miles in length, cost an estimated $19.7 million, take four months to complete, and be constructed 17,000 ft. above sea level. It has received a great deal of international environmental criticism for creating unnecessary strain on an already fragile glacial ecosystem.
For Tibetans, however, objections are much more personal and symbolic. The road will lead the torch, wealthy tourists, and trekkers near the same pass from where Chinese border security force recently shot Tibetans fleeing the oppressive Chinese rule, which left one nun dead and another critically injured. Moreover, the road will lead directly around Mt. Kailash, a holy place for Buddhist and Hindu pilgrimage, transforming the mountain into a Chinese ‘Disneyland’ for tourists. In conjunction with thousands of Buddhist monasteries China has already desecrated and rebuilt as tourist attractions, the route around Mt. Kailash demonstrates China’s perpetual insolence for Tibetan culture.
China has allocated the $19.7 million budget to the road despite the millions of Tibetans and Chinese suffering in abject poverty without basic healthcare and education. Environmental damage in the Himalaya passes will severely impact the water and land that so many Tibetans depend on. Moreover, China has given little thought to, or ignored, the consequences that their destruction will have on the spiritual needs of Tibetans. The Chinese government has demonstrated its need to control, impress, and symbolically assert its colonial power.
This new road will better mobilize and equip Chinese soldiers to patrol the passes of the Himalaya Mountains. Every year, hundreds of Tibetans flee into exile through the Himalayas. With this project, the Chinese government can tighten its grip over Tibetans’ freedom of movement and prevent children, monks, nuns, and other Tibetans from meeting their religious leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and pursuing their education.
India has highlighted environmental and political concerns for the new road as well. Indian Air Vice-Marshall P C Routle claims, “It is a preposterous idea… Someone might call it developing the region, but it will end up destroying the area. Look at what we have done to high altitude areas and glaciers in India by building roads right up to the snouts… Badrinath in Uttarkhand, North India, is a prime example. Decades ago it was a pristine area, now it’s an unimaginable sea of people and waste.”
Moreover, the Indian government is feeling the pressure because it will have to implement more infrastructure projects on its side of the border to counter China’s moves in the region.
Construction of the road will commence in less than a week, revealing that plans have been underway and kept secret for months. The 2008 Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee feigned ignorance about the project. After they ‘found out’, they asserted that they “hoped the new highway would become a major route for tourists and mountaineers.” To Tibetans, however, the road represents another tool to advance the ongoing cultural genocide and violence the alien communist regime has been perpetrating against them for years in their own ancestral territory.
Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) is concerned about the welfare of Tibetans who live in the region and urges the Chinese government to immediately cease plans for Mt. Everest road construction before irreversible damage is done to the environment.
Tibetan Women’s Association was founded in 1959 when thousands of Tibetan women gathered in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet to protest against the illegal occupation of Tibet by Communist China. Today, TWA has 14,000 members from 47 regional chapters across the globe. It is a democratic organization and their members elect the members of the Central as well as the Regional Working Committees.
Tibetan Women’s Association
The contents of the above article are of TWA’s reflection and do not necessarily reflect the views of Phayul.