Experts have advised that the more expensive option for a new railway should be chosen to minimize the impact on pandas' habitats.
The experts said in an environment impact statement on the planned 435-km Chengdu-Lanzhou railway, which will link Chengdu, capital in southwest Sichuan Province with its counterpart Lanzhou of northwest Gansu Province.
The construction is scheduled to begin before the end of this year and it will follow the Minshan mountain system, a region encompassing four world heritage sites including the Sichuan Wolong great panda habitat, said the railway designer.
China No. 2 railway survey and design institute (SRSDI), the railway designer, has offered two alternatives.
In the first one, the railway will go from Dujiangyan to Jiuzhaigou, which will "largely promote the tourism in west Sichuan Province, as well as economic development there," says the statement on its benefit.
However, the railway will go across 14-km's of ecological protection sites, including a panda habitat and three other world heritage sites.
The four are: Jiuzhaigou Natural Scenic Reserve; Huanglong (Yellow Dragon) Temple scenic area; Wolong Nature Reserve, popularly known as the "home of giant panda"; and Dujiangyan, a city famed for having the earliest irrigation system in the world.
The designer recommends the second one, which will detour Dujiangyan and "least affect the panda habitat" by building deep tunnel and bridges.
"We will try our best to keep the original passageway for the pandas," said Wang Xinjian, vice director of the SRSDI environment assessment bureau.
Wang also said that the number of trains will be reduced at night, to reduce impact on pandas.
"Our major concern is to avoid disturbing the great panda and other kinds of wildlife in the region," he added.
(Xinhua News Agency November 2, 2008)