By Deng Jiansheng
“It only took 4 hours to get here from Lhasa now, and guess how long it took when I first visited the city in 1953? Sixteen days!” Daglung, a 70-year-old villager from Bakyi village in suburban Nyingchi, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, told People’s Daily.
“It was barely imaginable for us to have a highway on which we could travel hundreds of kilometers in a day,” Daglung said.
The highway mentioned by Daglung is a high-grade road connecting Tibet Autonomous Region’s capital Lhasa and Nyingchi, a prefecture-level city in southeast part of the region. The 409.2-kilometer road commenced construction in May, 2013 and officially opened to traffic in April last year. It is the longest operational high-grade highway in Tibet.
Before the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, no highway or road bridge had ever existed there.
Since the world-renowned Sichuan-Tibet highway, the construction of Tibet’s transportation infrastructure has developed by leaps and bounds in just decades. By the end of 2019, the total mileage of the region’s road network had reached 100,000 kilometers, including over 74,000 kilometers paved in rural areas.
The Bakyi village where Daglung lives locates along the Sichuan-Tibet highway. Kelsang Wangchuge, a fellow villager of Bakyi, said he earned over 300,000 yuan (about $42,360.92) last year transporting with a truck, and another 250,000 by renting a large excavator to a construction site. Besides, his wife who ran a stall at a local scenic spot also pocketed a net profit of 50,000 yuan.
“All these incomes cannot be realized without the Lhasa-Nyingchi high-grade highway,” Kelsang Wangchuge said, explaining that the road spiked the construction of logistics parks and wholesale markets in Nyingchi, as well as the number of tourists visiting the scenic spot where his wife runs business.
In recent years, Tibet has been witnessing accelerated construction of high-grade national and provincial arterial roads. The Nyingchi-Lhasa highway, the high-grade road linking Shigatse Peace Airport and downtown Shigatse, as well as the Tsetang- Gonggar airport highway all opened to traffic successively.
This year, the autonomous region will keep pushing forward with the construction of high-grade highways, and strive to achieve official operation of the Lhasa-Nagqu highway, and the Qamdo-Jagka section of the National Highway 214 before the end of the year.
The efforts to enhance transportation infrastructure largely facilitated workforce transfer in farming and stockbreeding areas and advanced poverty alleviation for farmers and herdsmen.
In 2019 alone, a total of 103,000 farmers and herdsmen have secured jobs thanks to highway projects, generating a total income of 1.78 billion yuan.
According to a site manager of the Lhasa – Shigatse Peace Airport high-grade highway, the project has created an income of 110 million yuan for local communities last year by hiring local workforce and renting their machineries and vehicles. This year, the figure is expected to reach 55 million, the manager added.
Singpukri is a village in Gongar county, Shannan prefecture that locates at the intersection of Tsetang-Gonggar highway and Gonggar airport expressway. As a relocation site under a relocation program for villagers living in high-altitude nature reserve in Tibet, it is a new home for over 900 households from Shuanghu county and Amdo county of Nagqu.
“Before the roads were completed, Singpukri was an ‘isolated island’. You had to first take a boat and then vehicles if you want to go outside the village, and the roads were narrow and bumpy. It took one or two days to travel to and fro Lhasa,” said villager Kelsang Tsering.
Kelsang Tsering is the first one in the village to buy a truck for logistics business whose “fleet” now has two trucks and an excavator.
“Our village was connected to the new asphalt road in 2014, which has made it easy for us to go to Shannan and Lhasa. And thanks to our location, which is close to the airport, our village is no longer impoverished by running logistics business,” the man said.
Now, a brick factory has been established by 48 households in Singpukri through fund raising, and many in the village set up fleets with trucks and excavators they bought with microcredits for logistics business.
A total of 105 villagers are currently working for the village’s collective economic organizations or outside the village, and almost all households have a stable source of income. Last year, the annual per capita income of the village reached 65,000 yuan.
Today, high-grade highways are extending on the mountains, valleys, villages and pasturing areas of the snow-covered plateau, paving a way that leads to wealth for farmers and herdsmen in Tibet.