Almost one year ago, when the nation was lauding the opening of the most elevated rail road in the world, linking Tibet with China's vast hinterland, some also expressed fears that the unique cultural tradition and natural scenery in the Land of Snows were likely to suffer from the big volumes of visitors keen to see the mysteries of the region.
Although 12 months may not be long enough to pacify those who worry, a recent trip to Tibet by Beijing Review staff reporters brought back news that we can be optimistic about the role of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway in local development. According to statistics released by Xinhua News Agency, over the past year, the railway carried more than 1.5 million passengers to Tibet, while local Tibetans' approval rate of the railway's environmental protection efforts reached 96.9 percent. Eight more state-level cultural heritage sites were designated in Tibet. The number of pilgrims to the Potala Palace, Norbu Lingka and Jokhang Monastery reached a historical high of 328,000, an increase of 62,000 over the previous year.