Business & Economy

Tibet: Highway to heaven’s gates

By Javier Garcia

Lhasa, Nov 2 (efe-epa).- Tibet, the top of the world, the millenary place where lamas conversed with the heights, continues to dazzle, but, in many places, excavators, highways and modern apartment towers have replaced the grazing of the yaks and the monks’ prayers.

Chinese construction advances unstoppably between the Himalayan peaks and now it is possible to travel in a few hours journeys that recently took days or to come across a shepherd at 4,000 meters high, on the screen of his 5G mobile.

According to the government this year, extreme poverty – an endemic problem in Tibet, where pastoralism has traditionally been the sole source of income for most – has been eradicated.

But desertification is also advancing: sand dunes are increasingly seen in mountains and rivers due to climate change.

The same happens with the predominance of Mandarin Chinese in classrooms and on the streets.

Also striking are the huge red signs that on all highways and cities thank the Chinese Communist Party for its support and call for unity, something unseen just two years ago.

The immense region of Tibet, with an average altitude of 4,900 meters above sea level, has about 3.5 million inhabitants.

According to data from the 2010 Chinese official census, 90.48 percent were ethnic Tibetans, 8.17 percent Han Chinese – the majority in China – and the rest of the 40 ethnic minorities that populate the region.

The percentage of Tibetan ethnicity has been decreasing in recent decades – 95.5 percent in 1990 and 92.8 percent in 2000 – while that of the Han ethnic group has kept growing – 3.4 percent in 1990 and 5 percent in 2000 – and it is estimated that currently it may already be above 10 percent.

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