China to build world's highest airport

By Richard High13 January 2010

China has announced plans to construct the world's highest airport in Tibet, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

At 4436 m the Nagqu Dagring Airport will be 102 m higher than Bamda Airport the current record holder, which is also in Tibet.

Nagqu is in the centre of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, about 300 km from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

It will be the sixth airport in Tibet and when completed in 2014 there will be one airport in each of Tibet's six prefectures.

"The airport construction is planned for 2011 with a construction period of three years," said Xu Jian, director of the Nagqu committee of development and reform.

"It is expected to cost CNY 1.8 billion (US$ 263 million) and cover an area of 233 to 266 hectares."

In 2008 China announced it would construct 97 new airports by 2020, so 80% of the population would be within a 90-minute drive of an airport.

"With the airport, Nagqu, which is also on the Qinghai-Tibet railway line, is expected to become the centre of an economic hub in the plateau region," said Tan Yongshou, commissioner of the prefecture.

Xu Bo, director of the Tibetan branch of the China civil aviation administration, added: " The objective for the next stage of development is to open direct air routes from Tibet to south Asian countries."

The Qinghai-Tibet railway, which at 5072 m is the world's highest, connects Tibet to the rest of China and opened four years ago.

The government is currently constructing six new rail lines in Tibet, which is rich in natural resources.

The Chinese government maintains that the new railway lines and airport are needed to boost economic growth in the region.

Opponents of the scheme say the developments are destroying Tibet's culture and environment.

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