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China downplays Everest highway plan

The Chinese culture minister says the move is aimed at making travel convenient.

world Updated: Jun 20, 2007 19:12 IST

China on Wednesday sought to downplay the controversy over its plan to build a road to Mount Everest base camp, saying the move was aimed at making travel convenient.

"Transport is an important part of development of China. The infrastructure has been planned to make it more convenient for the people," Chinese Culture Minister Sun Jiazheng told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday.

He was referring to the controversy triggered off by Beijing's plan to build a metalled road to the base camp of the world's highest mountain. Environmentalists have protested, warning it could destroy the ecosystem.

The minister was speaking after signing a cultural exchange agreement with Culture Minister Ambika Soni.

China on Tuesday announced that it was constructing a 108-km road to a height of 5,200 metres with the aim of transporting the Olympic torch to the mountain.

First Published: Jun 20, 2007 17:13 IST