While China applauds the new Qinghai-Tibet railway for its environmentally-friendly construction, a leading Chinese scientist says that more time will be needed to evaluate the impact brought by the line after some good signs have been seen.
According to Wednesday's Science Times, Dr. Yang Qisen of the Institute of Zoology with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, points out that it is inevitable the railway, which crosses three national nature reserves, will affect the activities of wild animals on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and the passages specially designed for animals to cross the tracks are "compensation" for the line's impact.
He said that the plateau has the most fragile ecosystem and the most unique biodiversity in China, even in the world. The Tibetan antelope, the Tibetan wild ass and the wild yak are just three of the wild animals that roam the region. These animals often make long-distance trips to collect food and water, breeding and give birth to baby animals.
In order to lessen the negative effect of the railway on the animals, the Institute of Zoology has designed 33 passages for wild animals to cross the railway and has monitored them for the last three years.
"The passage is a last resort in wild animal protection - it is compensatory measure granted by humans to animals," Yang said.
Investigations have showed that the antelope and other wild animals are gradually adapting to the new environment by using the passages.
A monitoring system targeting the passages became operational during the construction of the railway. "Compared with similar monitoring systems in foreign countries, we have had a very good beginning," Yang said.
However, he added, "It is still too early to judge whether the passages are successful or not."
The evaluation of the effectiveness of wild animal passages is not mature even in some developed countries. In the United States, only 60% passages are covered by monitoring systems, according to Yang.
"It will take five to ten years of the railway being in operation to make the necessary conclusions," Yang said.
The 1,956-kilometer-long Qinghai-Tibet railway is the world's highest and longest plateau railroad and also the first railway connecting the Tibet Autonomous Region with other parts of China.