China opened its second railway line in Tibet, constructed at a cost of $ 2.16 billion, close to Indian border in Sikkim. The rail link will make efficient mobility of its military in the remote and strategic Himalayan region.
The railway line stretched over 253 km connects Tibet’s provincial capital Lhasa with Xigaze, the second-largest city in Tibet and also the traditional seat of the pro-Beijing Panchen Lama – considered second important Monk in Tibetan hierarchy.
The rail link close to the Indian border in Sikkim is also near China’s border with Nepal and Bhutan. It cuts the travel time between Lhasa and Xigaze from the current 4 hours by road to around 2 hours. The line is the second railway line in Tibet and an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, the world’s highest rail link connecting China’s mainland with Tibet.
China’s other Rail Links close to India
- China launched the railway to Lhasa which passes icy mountains on the Tibetan highlands, reaching altitudes as high as 5,000 m (16,400 ft) above sea level.
- China plans to build a new important railway line in Tibet close to Arunachal Pradesh, which Chinese analysts say could act as a “bargaining chip” during the border negotiations with India.
- China is also expected to start the construction of another railway line linking Lhasa to Nyingchi in the east. Nyingchi is located near Arunachal Pradesh, the closest area to the border. The railway expansion will link Nepal, Bhutan and India by 2020.
- China will construct a railway linking Xigaze with Gyirong County near Nepal under its five year plan ending 2020. Gyirong county has a checkpoint connecting Nepal and Yatung county, close to Indian border near Sikkim and Bhutan, a trade centre bordering India and Bhutan.
China’s capital city Beijing which is battling with severe air pollution, particularly smog, has announced plans to ban the use of coal by the end of year 2020. Beijing drew nearly 25% of its energy consumption by using coal in 2012 and 22% of the fine particles floating in the capital’s air were also the result of coal use. Besides coal, emissions from motor vehicles, industrial production and general dust also contributed to pollution in the city. Even with the Beijing ban, coal use is likely to increase in China.
Coal-fired power and heating is a major contributor of greenhouse gases and has played a major role in turning China into the world’s largest emitter of carbon and other greenhouse gases. Pressure is mounting on China’s central government to clean up the country’s polluted environment, as dissatisfaction over smog and water and soil contamination surges among China’s growing middle class.
Recently, the central government listed environmental protection as one of the top criteria by which leaders will be judged. In September 2013, the government announced a ban on new coal-fired power plants around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
With a view to exercise stern regulation on GM Crops, China’s Ministry of Agriculture has decided to regulate the sales and growth of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the country. As per the Ministry of Agriculture, any firm or individual found transgressing regulations to grow or sell GM crops will be punished strictly.
The decision comes close on the heels of a media publicizing the sale of GM rice at a supermarket in Central China, which is prohibited in the country. The objective behind this measure is to prevent illegal distribution of GM crops in the country.
China has authorized imports of GM soybeans and corns and certified the growth of various GM crops including cotton, tomatoes, papayas and peppers. However, it has not allowed commercial production or sale of GM crops.
Though, the ministry has given nod to experimental planting of two strains of insect-resistant GM rice in 2009, but the safety certificates for this experiment expire this year and commercial production is yet take off. Grant of safety certificates on GM crops doesn’t mean autonomy of commercial production.
China faces the challenge of providing adequate food to its billions of people. Its population is continuously on the rise and its available land is gradually reducing leading to flat yield in the past decade. Such long-term food security trends are worrying for the country. China’s decision to open the doors of commercial production of GM crops can extenuate the worries. But, concerns over after-effects of GM crops persist.
The major reason behind such protective concern is the uncertainty on GM crops’ long-term risks on environment and humans.
Status of GM crops in India
Indian government has approved commercialization of only one GM crop i.e. Bt Cotton. However, there are various GM crops that are in pipeline and are under development and field trials. The crops include brinjal, corn, tomato, rice and groundnut. The success of field trials of GM crops will pave the way for commercialization of GM crops in the country.
However, Indian government is still in quandary over the issue of commercialization of GM crops.
Major concerns related to this are:
- GM is a cost-intensive technology, which is not suitable for small farmers in India.
- There is a dearth of sufficient infrastructure and tools required for testing of GM crops in India
- India has a weak regulatory framework of GM crops.
Enhancing the reach of its fire-power, China’s has unveiled the sophisticated Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which has a range of 12,000 kms, placing it among the world’s longest-range missiles.
The existence of a new generation of Chinese ICBM, the Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) missile, was indirectly revealed by a Chinese Government environmental monitoring file. It is widely speculated that the DF-41 missiles will be capable of carrying three nuclear warheads. The next generation missile is also likely to have better mobility as the launchers can cross more complicated terrain, and have better survivability in the event of a first strike. It would also have stronger penetration abilities and faster response times.