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Tackling mountain of difficulties

By Hu Yongqi and Li Yingqing in Yunnan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-08 09:57

Tackling mountain of difficulties

Bad weather often makes Gongshan, Yunnan province, inaccessible. A tunnel will soon provide a reliable route. [Wang Jing / China Daily]

Key route will provide lifeline to community often cut off by heavy snow, report Hu Yongqi and Li Yingqing in Yunnan.

Since December, Gaoligong Mountain National Nature Reserve in Yunnan province has been covered by heavy snow up to 10 meters deep. The road that winds around the mountain to the county seat of Gongshan in Nujiang Lisu autonomous prefecture has been inaccessible to traffic.

The only sign of human habitation was a row of makeshift houses, built halfway up the mountain three years ago, and facing northern Myanmar. Most of the dwellings were empty and only one person was in evidence; Zhou Yong, the project manager in charge of the western part of a new tunnel being drilled through Gaoligong Mountain.

"It's traditional for most of the Chinese workers to go home to see parents and relatives during Spring Festival. All the staff have been permitted to take the break, so I have to stay to keep an eye on the machinery and facilities," he said. Although many of his co-workers were already en route to their homes, as project manager, Zhou was left with no choice but to remain on site, even though he missed his family, 2,000 km away in Jiangsu province.

In March 2011, the government of Nujiang prefecture began a project to build a tunnel and an asphalt road from Gongshan to Dulongjiang township, where people from the Derung ethnic group account for 70 percent of the population. The town is notorious for being inaccessible for six months of the year, cut off from the outside world by heavy snowfalls.

Zhou has been working on the tunnel for three years. It's a vital part of the upgrading of the local infrastructure. When it is completed next year, the tunnel will cut the distance between the township and Gongshan county to 76 km from the present 96, and the journey time will be reduced to two hours from six.

Gaoligong Mountain is a microcosm of the natural conditions in Yunnan: 84 percent of its 394,000 sq km is mountains and hills. Only 6 percent is bazi, a local word for flatland or plain, meaning that the region's highways traverse innumerable bridges and tunnels.

Technicians such as Zhou have to overcome the harsh natural conditions to complete their tasks. Along with hundreds of construction workers, they're working to improve the local transport system and to promote regional economic development.

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