China Focus: Easier transportation fuels development in Tibetan areas
CHENGDU, March 10 (Xinhua) -- At the break of dawn, Ma Quanfang puts on his boots and a blue apron and grabs a broom before going out to clean the road that connects his village to the outside world.
Ma is a road maintenance worker in Mulan Village of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Region in southwest China's Sichuan Province. He is in charge of a 1 km section of the road to keep it looking like new.
"I am quite attached to the road," said Ma, 80.
In 2007, when workers just finished laying the foundation for the road, Ma became suddenly ill. Thanks to the road, an ambulance was able to take him to the prefectural capital for medical treatment.
"I would not have survived if the transportation condition remained what it was in the past," Ma said. "So when they recruited maintenance workers, I applied immediately."
The road is part of a bigger picture in the Tibetan areas in Sichuan.
In the past decade, a total of 47,000 km of roads have been built and rebuilt in the region. Nearly 100,000 farmers and herdsmen have moved into new houses and more than 300,000 people in the Tibetan areas have bid farewell to butter lamps.
Last month, another 16 counties in the Tibetan areas in Sichuan cast off poverty. This means that all the 32 counties in Tibetan areas in Sichuan have shaken off poverty.
Sichuan's Tibetan areas have a population of 2.17 million, including 1.6 million Tibetans.
For many people in Ma's village, the road also fueled the development of a big traditional industry -- apples.
Mulan Village is a core production base of apples. Since the 1980s, locals started growing apples on a large scale. The apples are tasty, but their sales were hampered by a lack of transportation facilities.
"People used to carry the apples on their backs or on horseback," said village official Long Huagui. "They had to go through ropeways and bridges, and many apples were damaged on the road before they even reached the market."
After laying the foundation for the road in 2007, locals cemented it in 2015. Last year, 3.5 km of a village trail was covered by asphalt, which linked the apple tree fields and the fields of other products such as peas and traditional herbs.
"As roads were built, more visitors came," Long said. "Now villagers can sell their products such as apples in front of their houses."
In September last year, a collective rural homestay opened in the village, combining accommodation, catering and entertainment such as fruit picking. All of the village's 1,407 residents, including Ma Quanfang, became part of the project.
"I have confidence that by the time the apples mature in the autumn this year, we will see more tourists," Long said.
The Tibetan areas in Sichuan are in the transitioning belt of the Sichuan Basin and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, featuring countless mountains and natural barriers. Since ancient times, locals' livelihoods have always been closely connected with transportation conditions.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese government built the Sichuan-Tibet Highway spanning more than 2,000 km. China upgraded and maintained the highway, making the roadway safer and easier to travel on.
Meanwhile, a series of new airports were built connecting Tibetan areas in Sichuan with the rest of the world.
Since 2009, the central and provincial governments have spent more than 130 billion yuan (18.7 billion U.S. dollars) in subsidies to help build new or upgrade existing roadways. By the end of 2019, all villages and townships in the region had paved roads.
The roadways have brought the Tibetans areas' specialties such as matsutake mushrooms, apples, vegetables and beef to the outside world. Exquisite scenery attracted tourists, and agriculture and animal husbandry prospered, driving local economic growth.
"During the coronavirus outbreak, we send about 230 parcels a day, up about 30 percent year on year," said Yang Chenghu, with a branch of courier company SF Express in the county of Yajiang in Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze in Sichuan.
Wearing a mask, Yang delivers masks, diapers and other life necessities door to door in the county streets and alleyways, while also helping locals send customers local specialties such as Cordyceps Sinensis, a type of fungi believed to boost the immune system.
Most areas in Yajiang are 3,000 meters above sea level, but e-commerce and the modern logistics system have extended to every corner. Last year, about 100 drones transported local matsutake mushrooms out of the mountains, and vehicles with cold storage facilities took them across the country within 48 hours.
"Easier transportation truly fueled development here," Yang said.