The Chinese are apparently planning to drill through Mount Everest as part of an ambitious railway project that would link the country with Nepal.
The proposed project would be an extension to the Qinghai-Tibet railway, which already connects China with the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The extended railway, which state media is reporting that Nepal requested, would bring travelers hundreds of miles farther east to Kathmandu, passing under the tallest mountain on earth along the way. From Kathmandu, it’s possible the railway could be expanded even farther to reach to Calcutta, India.
State media reports the project could be completed as soon as 2020. It’s expected to help forge a link between China and the huge markets of India. It would also provide an extra transportation channel for the growing number of Chinese tourists making the journey to Nepal.
The project faces some intimidating physical challenges due to the rough Himalayan terrain, harsh climate, and radical changes in elevation. A railway expert cited by the “China Daily” said trains running along the steep railroad would likely only reach a maximum of 50 mph.
The proposed railway comes at a time of increasing skepticism over developing Chinese projects and concerns over the nation’s presence in Nepal. The Chinese have already completed several large construction projects in Nepal, erecting hydroelectric dams, airports, and even worship sites. Chinese-made good are also prominent in many Nepalese markets. The railway project is likely aimed at expanding the Chinese economy, and risks bringing China into conflict with India, which considers its western neighbor within its sphere of influence.
The Chinese project has also concerned human rights officials who fear the Asian superpower’s expansion into Nepal. Environmentalists have also warned the project could negatively affect the fragile ecosystem in the Himalayas.
The Chinese state media’s frequently sensational claims raise doubts on the seriousness of the railway project. However, if it is real, the project could tip the balance of power in Asia and offer one of the world’s greatest rail journeys. But considering the project’s daunting size and cost, as well as its potential to spark political and economic unrest while harming one of the world’s most famous landmarks, it’s still unclear if China will ever even break ground.