By Tenzin Dharpo
Airport at Gonkar, near Lhasa.
DHARAMSHALA, June 11: China will begin building three more airports in occupied Tibet’s Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) near the border region neighboring India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2019, Chinese state media, Global Times
said on Sunday.
“The construction of three new regional airports, together with a new airfield runway at Lhasa airport, known as the "3+1" project, is set to begin in 2019 and be completed in 2021”, Chinese government mouthpiece reported.
The three new airports will be built in southern Tibet’s Lhoka, Xigaze and Ngari region in TAR adding to the already five operational airports there. The project is among the five civil aviation development plans in Tibet under the 13th Five-year Plan (2016-20) with budgets estimated at 16.7 billion yuan ($ 2.6 billion).
The new airports will be built by Chinese aviation firms such as the Capital Airport Holding Company, Shanghai Airport Authority, China West Airport Group and Southwest Bureau.
While the purpose for the additional airports have been stated to be facilitating tourism and “aiming to strengthen the border region's communication with surrounding areas”, observers see the development as one of China’s multiple strategic advances in the subcontinent.
According to Xinhua,
there are currently nine airlines operating 86 air routes via five airports in the autonomous region, including one international route to Kathmandu, Nepal, the head of Tibet Bureau Bai Zhen told Xinhua
The airports once completed will connect eight domestic and international air routes. Official reports say that in 2017, Lhasa airport received more than 4.5 million passengers through 41,299 flights.