China to restrict tourists near Arunachal Pradesh

Weeks after opening a strategic highway to a remote county in Tibet close to the Arunachal Pradesh border, China has said it would restrict the number of tourists visiting the area to protect its fragile ecology.

Officials of Medog County, the last county in Tibet to gain road access to the outside world early this month, said it would decrease the number of tourists to fewer than 15,000 annually by 2015.

The 117-kilometre highway linking Zhamog Township, the county seat of Bome County, and Medog in Nyingchi Prefecture in southeastern Tibet opened in October, putting an end to the isolation of a region once dubbed the “secret lotus”.

The county located close to Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as part of Southern Tibet.

The county government of Medog published a statement to establish a better tourism industry as opening of the highway has attracted interest of tourists worldwide, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

According to official figures, about 29,900 tourists visited the area from January to July, bringing total revenues of 6.57 million yuan ($1.08 lakh).

Lhagpa, director of Medog County’s tourism bureau, said the number of tourists annually will be restricted to under 15,000 by 2015 in order to better protect the region’s ecological environment.

The government will preserve the nature and cultural landscape as well as explore a new route for hikers, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, more than 100 local families will be involved in the tourism industry and infrastructure will be greatly improved by the end of 2015, the statement said.

Mountain paths connecting villages and towns were once the only travel routes, making foot travel and horse the only transportation available in Medog, which has a population of 12,000.

The new road descends sharply from its starting point at the county border, 4,300 metres above sea level and is covered by snow year-round to the forest-surrounded county seat at an altitude of 1,300 metres.

The road highlighted the infrastructure development in Tibet, raising concerns in India as it provided strategic advantage to China to move its troops to the borders fast.

Besides well laid highways and rail networks, China has built five airports in the Himalayan region so far.

The well laid out development in the area has prompted India to develop its part of the borders in the remote areas.

source: Times of India, 13 NOV 2013

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