Beijing is mulling over extending a railway line to Nepal that could include a tunnel under Mount Everest. The Qinghai-Tibet line already links the capital to Lhasa, with China seeking more trade across the Himalayas.
The Chinese government is planning to build a railway line connecting it to Nepal, The China Daily newspaper said. The railroad was being expanded "at Nepal's request" and would be part of the Qinghai-Tibet railway which links Tibet's capital Lhasa with Beijing.
The new line could also include a tunnel running through the Mount Everest, China Daily said quoting Wang Mengshu from the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
"The line will probably have to go through Qomolangma so that workers may have to dig some very long tunnels," Wang said, referring to the Everest by its Tibetan name. The challenging terrain of the Himalayas and the sharp changes in elevation meant any train would have a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour, Wang added.
The expert said that Chinese officials had begun preparatory work and the rail network was expected to be completed by 2020 and could eventually be extended to Kathmandu and further to India, providing access to a huge market for Beijing.
Boost to tourism?
"A proposed extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to the China-Nepal border through Tibet would boost bilateral trade and tourism as there is currently no rail line linking the two countries," the China Daily wrote.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway is the highest in the world
Hundreds of Chinese tourists flock every year to Nepal, home to 14 of the world's tallest peaks more than 8,000 meters, but environmentalists are worried about the impact a rail line through one of the world's most fragile ecologies could create.
China claims that the rail line will help eliminate poverty and boost jobs and tourism, but the move could also be a ruse to stem the flow of Tibetan refugees outside China and into India, the temporary home of Tibet's spiritual head, Dalai Lama.
The latest proposal also reflects China's growing influence in its southern neighbor Nepal, which receives 128 million dollars in aid from Beijing apart from heavy investments in hydropower and telecommunications.
mg/rc (PTI, AFP)