Beijing, June 18 (PTI): China has included the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in its second scientific expedition to the 4,000m-high Qinghai-Tibet plateau to study climate and environmental changes in the region since the last mission was launched on a similar scale over four decades back.
The expedition will take scientists to a pass linking South Asia, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
It will also take the scientists to the CPEC, the controversial $50-billion corridor that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and over which India has conveyed its protests to China.
The area covers the Karakoram mountain ranges, including the Siachen Glacier.
The last expedition of a similar scale in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, regarded as the roof of the world, had been conducted in the 1970s. This time, the expedition will last five to 10 years and the first stop will be Serling Tso, a 2,391sqkm lake that was confirmed to have replaced the Buddhist holy lake Namtso as Tibet’s largest in 2014.
In the coming months, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) will take more than 100 scientists to the lake area and the origin of the Yangtze, China’s longest river.
The scientists, to be divided into four groups, will carry out a comprehensive survey of the plateau glaciers, climate change, biodiversity and ecological changes, Yao Tandong, an academic with the CAS, was quoted as saying by the report.
“Great changes have taken place in the plateau’s resources and environment since the first scientific expedition,” Yao, director of the CAS Institute of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Research, said. “We need further research to find out ways to cope with these changes.”
China’s first comprehensive scientific expedition to the Tibet plateau began in the 1970s and covered more than 50 disciplines, including geologic structure, prehistoric life, geophysics, climate, zoology and botany. “The scientists reported major discoveries and filled many gaps in plateau research,” Yao said.
The new round of research, he said, will focus on changes.
Zhu Liping, a CAS researcher leading the lake observation team, said the surface of Serling Tso Lake, for example, had expanded 40 per cent between 1976 and 2009.
Since 1990, water in the plateau’s 1,000 lakes has increased by 100 billion cubic metres. “The volume is equal to three times the water in Three Gorges Dam,” Zhu said, referring to the hydroelectric dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping in Hubei province.
The study will measure the impact on the ecology and its potential link to flooding and drought in the low-lying eastern monsoon region. Zhu said data would be collected by scientists using automatic boats for the first time and a topographic map drawn.
“The plateau climate is becoming warmer and more humid,” said Xu Baiqing, who will be leading another team to the glaciers. The team will drill ice cores at three major plateau glacier groups.
Buried in the cold interiors of glaciers, ice cores contain well-preserved and detailed records of climate change in a century.
The impact of climatic changes would be assessed and proposals formulated for conservation and rational development of resources.
On the archaeological front, scientists will look for evidence that can prove an earlier archaeological discovery of Palaeolithic ruins in the Serling Tso suggesting that humans may have been lived in this part of the world since some 30,000 years ago.
According to team leader Deng Tao, deputy director of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, under the CAS, the archaeologists will try to answer why humans came to this plateau, where they came from and how they had adapted to high-altitude living.
A fourth team will research the biological diversity on the plateau.