XIGAZE, Tibet -- Tibet Wednesday started construction on its fifth civil airport in the southwest China's autonomous region, according to local authorities.
The government would invest a total 480 million yuan (US$70 million) in the airport in Xigaze, the second-biggest city in Tibet, said Xu Bo, head of the Civil Aviation Administration's Tibet Branch.
Construction work on the Peace Airport, at an altitude of 3,782 meters, would be finished in two years, Xu told Xinhua.
Yan Ping, cheif commander of the construction work, said the airport was designed to handle 230,000 passengers and 1,150 tonnes of cargo and mail a year by 2020.
Xu Xueguang, secretary of Xigaze prefectural Party committee, said: "The civil airport will be an air corridor linking Xigaze with the outside world and inject new vigor into local social and economic development."
Hao Peng, vice chairman of the Tibet regional government, said the airport would allow more people in other parts of the country to take flights to the autunomous region.
The airport, together with more railways and highways, would help to boost investment and tourism in Xigaze, Hao added.
It would the fifth civil airpot to be operational in Tibet, after Lhasa, Qamdo, Nyingchi and Ngari, according to Xu.
It also is among the 180 key projects in which the central government invested more than 70 billion yuan (US$10.3 billion) in the five years through 2010.
The Bangda Airport of Qamdo is 4,334 meters above sea level, making it the highest airport in the world.
China is also building a 254-km railway linking Xigaze with the regional capital Lhasa. Construction on the 11-billion-yuan Qinghai-Tibet railway's extension line started in 2008 and was expected to be completed in 2010.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, running 1,956 kilometers from Xining city in Qinghai province to Lhasa in Tibet, was officially put into operation in July 2006. It is the highest railway in the world and ended Tibet's history without railway.
Xigaze, in southern Tibet, has an polulation of 680,000 and is home to such renowned tourist sites as Sagya and Baiqoi monastories.