Green Projects to Conserve the Plateau Biodiversity
China Environment News

Building green railways and highways to ensure zero influence on wildlife migration

◆ Reporter: Liu Xiaoxing

As the train ran forward, a beautiful scenario appeared: The pale yellow wasteland spreads out in layers, the crystal clear snow-capped mountains give off a beautiful luster under the blue sky, and herds of Tibetan antelopes, Asiatic wild asses and wild yaks are relaxed and at ease.

Keeping the "beauty" of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau embodies the continuous efforts of countless people.

Building an eco-friendly railway with plateau characteristics

With various types of ecosystems and rich biological populations, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the "source of rivers and rivers" and "ecological source" in China and South Asia, with primitive, unique and fragile ecological environment. It is clearly stated by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council that the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway should cherish every plant and tree in the plateau. With the governments of Qinghai Province and Tibet Autonomous Region, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Construction Department signed the first environmental protection responsibility letter in the history of China's railway construction, and introduced the position of environmental protection supervisor for the first time in the construction of national key projects.

To build an eco-friendly railway with plateau characteristics.

In the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the general goals of ecological environment protection are: to design, construct and put into operation the environmental protection facilities and the main project at the same time, and ensure that the permafrost environment is effectively protected, the water quality of rivers is not polluted, the migration of wild animals is not affected, and the natural landscape on both sides of the railway is not damaged.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which passes through Qinghai Lake and Guanjiao Tunnel, crosses Hoh Xil and Tanggula Mountains, and stretches for nearly 2,000km, is known as the "steel road on the roof of the world" and the "green road to the heaven" on the roof of the world.

An amount of more than RMB 2 billion has been invested in the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway, making it the railway construction project with the largest investment of environmental protection in China at that time, aiming to conserve the blue sky, clear lake water and rare wild animals on the plateau.

In the early 1960s, China organized scientific and technological forces to solve the problem of permafrost that plagued the railway construction on plateau in the world, and set up a research base of permafrost called Fenghuoshan Observatory in the Fenghuoshan area of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at an altitude of more than 4,800m. In the past 40 years, scientific researchers have been observing and recording meteorological and permafrost changes in the permafrost test section under the snow mountains, and accumulated more than 12 million pieces of valuable data for the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

While enjoying the beautiful scenery on both sides of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, you will also notice the "metal bars" which are taller than people and stretch forward, and there are more than 15,000 such "iron pillars". These "hot rods" have the greatest function of "transferring cold without transferring heat", which means that they can absorb and discharge the heat that will cause the permafrost to melt in summer, but will not transfer the heat into the soil. These "iron pillars" are like the "patron saint" of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. With them, the stability of the roadbed in the permafrost area can be greatly improved.

The longest railway bridge on the plateau permafrost in the world, on the edge of Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve, flies like a beautiful "rainbow" between snow-capped mountains in China's largest "no man's land". Like a dragon, the bridge winds away, and the rails fly by without causing disturbance. This is Qingshui River Bridge, with a total length of 11.7km, is known as the longest bridge of Qinghai-Tibet Railway. Qingshui River Bridge is the longest bridge as a road along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, and also an "environmental protection bridge" with two functions of permafrost tunnel and wildlife passage, which opens up a special "green passage" for wildlife. This bridge is the first one in its category in the history of Chinese railways.

There are 675 such "environmental protection bridges" in the Golmud-Lhasa section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway with a total length of 1,142km, which is equivalent to 1km bridge for every 7km railway. Replacing roads with bridges is the technical key to solve the permafrost problem.

For the purpose of restoring the vegetation on railway land, researchers have carried out research on vegetation restoration and replantation in the plateau permafrost area. With the help of advanced technology, the survival rate of trial planting can reach more than 70%, which is more than double the natural survival rate.

Along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, 33 wildlife passages have been set up to ensure the normal life, migration and reproduction of wildlife. The summer of 2002, when the Tibetan antelope, a national rare wild animal, gave birth and migrated, the relevant construction units took the initiative to stop work to make way for them.

The special garbage compressor for trains is used to treat wastes in order to ensure that the environment along the railway is not polluted with garbage.

For 15 years, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway has been displayed in the magical and clean Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with a beautiful posture, and the "pure land of the plateau" has never been covered with dust, with the measures of low-temperature hot rod, bridge passage for wildlife migration, laying of turf topsoil in the original position and the setting of a precedent for desertification control with plants in the arid desert areas of Qinghai-Tibet Railway through bunch planting.

Innovative measures to improve biodiversity conservation capability

The practice of ecological environment protection of Qinghai-Tibet Railway is only a reflection of correctly handling the relationship between protection and development, and coordinating protection and development and construction in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The Jigzhi-Barkam Expressway, which starts at the junction of Sichuan and Qinghai, is the first high-altitude plateau expressway in Sichuan. It passes through grasslands and wetlands along the way, with an extremely fragile ecological environment. As a result, the task of environmental protection and soil and water conservation is extremely arduous in the project construction.

The meadows cut into squares are neatly stacked and maintained. Trees such as white birch, fir and oriental arborvitae are planted on the topsoil excavated during the construction, waiting for replanting... In the Jigzhi-Barkam Expressway Original Ecological Vegetation Restoration Test Base, expressway builders are working hard to minimize the ecological damage caused by the expressway construction to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in a brand new way.

The topsoil excavated by construction is also stacked and leveled in the topsoil maintenance and seedling verification test base. After nutrition cultivation, birch, fir, oriental arborvitae, Salix paraqplesia and other plateau trees are planted.

All these meadows and trees will be replanted along the expressway in the future, and in the whole Jigzhi-Barkam Expressway project, the total replanted area of meadows alone is about 3 million square meters. Innovation measures, such as improving soil quality in plateau and transplanting seedlings in meadows, are encountering many challenges on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and need a lot of scientific research.

The green "kindling" is exerting important influences and functions on the ecological environment conservation of major infrastructure construction projects in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, whether it's the technologies of replacing roads with bridges on Qinghai-Tibet Railway or meadow replanting, topsoil conservation, seedling cultivation and replanting on Jigzhi-Barkam Expressway.

For some roads in Sanjiangyuan area, measures have been taken to protect the ecological environment, such as crossing wetlands by continuous bridges, crossing mountains by tunnels, and ensuring the unrestricted wildlife migration by low-subgrade construction methods.

In the southern section of Huofengshan Mountain and Tanggula Mountains, the survival rate of turf replanting reached 100% with the help of vegetation restoration technology;


The wasteland and snow mountains tell stories about time, strength and life; green projects connect history with modern times, writing about the prosperity of the snow-covered plateau.