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Lhasa seeks preservation, balanced growth

Palden Nyima and Da Qiong
Updated: May 25,2016 9:28 AM     China Daily

Tibetan opera artists perform in celebration of a giant thangka. It took a thangka master and nine of his disciples nine years to complete the 10,000-square-meter artwork. [Photo/Xinhua]

Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, has rolled out a series of measures to protect the city’s historic villages, local officials said on May 24.

In recent years, the regional government has vowed to turn Lhasa into one of China’s special cultural heritage sites, and it’s becoming a world tourism destination.

The city has two districts, six counties, 57 townships and 1,123 villages. More than half the villages are said to have historical value.

“Protection work of cultural sites in the region started in the 1980s, and it has leapt forward from a single site at the beginning to a wide range now,” said Zhang Hui, deputy director of the city’s people’s congress standing committee.

Zhang said the renovation of 1,300-year-old Barkhor Street is a good example of success. More than 1.5 billion yuan ($229 million) was invested in the project in 2013.

“To reverse the current condition of insufficient protection, the city government is planning further studies, aiming to protect the old villages through legislation,” Zhang said.

According to local officials, the protection of ancient villages is urgent, considering the fast speed of urbanization and the increasing conflicts between construction and protection interests.

“Some ancient villages need renovation, but because of some people’s insufficient awareness about protection, there’s variation in the level of damage to some historical architecture,” said Yangjen Drolkar, another deputy director of the Lhasa people’s congress standing committee.

“The protection procedures will help preserve the history and culture of the age-old villages, and it will prevent exploitation,” said Yangjen Drolkar.

The city’s cultural bureau will carry out the plan.

“We will increase spending on the protection of ancient villages and intangible cultural sites,” said Gesang Dondrub, deputy head of the Lhasa Cultural Bureau. “Another measure is to establish a professional monitoring institute to make sure the work can be done professionally and in a scientific way.”

He added that his bureau will block any construction that could damage cultural sites.

Karma Dzondru, a resident of Lhasa’s Barkor Ancient Street, said he was pleased to see the government renovating the ancient street without losing its original appearance.

“I feel lucky to live on Barkor Street, and I’m pleased to see the buildings around our houses are all Tibetan styles,” Karma Dzondru said.