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08:31 May 18 2009

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Airport in Chinese Tibetan prefecture to get underway in August
08:30, May 18, 2009  

Construction of an airport that is aimed at opening up remote Tibetan communities of northwest China's Gansu Province to development and tourism is to begin in August.

Xiahe Labrang Airport, a 670-million-yuan (96 million U.S. dollars) project in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gannan, will be jointly built by the Gansu Provincial Airport Investment and Management Co. and the local government of Gannan, according to an agreement reached Thursday.

The site was about 250 km from the provincial capital, Lanzhou, and close to Labrang Monastery, center of the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, said Li Zhiyong, head of transportation and energy at the development and reform commission in Gannan.

Li said the airport would have a 3,200-meter runway and would handle up to 140,000 passengers and 560 tons of cargo annually. The construction would take three years.

Gannan, one of China's 10 Tibetan autonomous prefectures, has a population of 680,000, more than half of whom are Tibetans.

The 45,000-square-km area borders Tibetan communities in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. A major stop-off along the ancient Silk Road, today's Gannan is linked to the outside world only by zigzagging plateau roads.

"The airport would provide easier access to traffic and boost local economic development by bringing in more tourists," said Qiao Feng, a deputy official in Xiahe County.

He said easier transport would help promote Tibetan culture and Buddhism because pilgrims from other Tibetan areas and researchers would also flood in.

Gannan is known for its pastureland and Tibetan culture, represented by more than 120 lamaseries.

Source: Xinhua

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