Remote no longer, roads link county to country

By DAQIONG and PALDEN NYIMA in Lhasa | China Daily | Updated: 2022-07-04 09:36
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An aerial photo shows part of the Metog-Pai Highway in the Tibet autonomous region, which is under construction and is expected to open later this year. DONG ZHIXIONG/XINHUA

Nyima will always remember the hardship he and his fellow villagers endured when his home county was isolated from the outside world because there were no proper roads.

Nyima is from a village in Metog, a remote county deep in the Himalayas in the Tibet autonomous region. He is a member of the Monba ethnic group, one of the smallest in China.

In the past, because of its isolation, people from Metog were forced to climb over snow-covered passes to neighboring towns to buy necessities and had to trek for a week to reach Nyingchi, the prefectural city, in search of education, medical treatment and job opportunities.

"A round trip between Metog and the nearest town would take villagers seven days in the past," Nyima said.

At an altitude of 1,200 meters, which is much lower than the average regional altitude of 4,000 meters, Metog is humid and rainy. Its name means "flower" or "lotus flower" in Tibetan, which is why it is also known as the "sacred valley of the lotus".

The county is surrounded by mountains and is home to everything from alpine zones to tropical rainforests. Farmers have grown rice, corn, finger millet and other crops for generations.

Because of the lack of roads connecting it with the outside world, people were either forced to walk or ride their livestock in the past.

The county is also located on one of the Himalaya's fracture zones. Natural disasters like landslides, mudslides, avalanches and floods occur frequently, and access to the county could be blocked for as long as nine months a year in the past.

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