|March 15,2017--After just three years in Pumaqangtang, China's highest township, Kelzang Chola has already developed signs of aging -- severe memory deterioration, hair and weight loss.
As party secretary in a township where the average life expectancy is less than 50 years, the 35-year-old always feels a sense of crisis.
"I dare not slack off at work. I know if I slow down, someone might never have the chance to enjoy a better life," Kelzang Chola said.
Altitudes above 5,000 meters are considered highly unsuitable for humans, with severe effects on health. Pumaqangtang in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, at 5,373 meters above sea level, is one such place.
Residents must contend with strong winds, biting cold and lower oxygen levels. Most people die before getting old.
"Strong wind can knock down telephone poles and even blow away the front door of our police station. On one occasion, we experienced a week-long power blackout," said Chen Kemin, political instructor at a border police station in Pumaqangtang.
With an average temperature of minus seven degrees Celsius, washing machines can only operate if they are warmed up with hot water for more than half an hour. People have to cover up with at least two quilts even on summer nights.
The lack of oxygen is the most challenging thing. People's lips appear blue because the amount of oxygen in the air is around 40 percent of that at sea level.
"Burning consumes the scarce oxygen, so we would rather cover up with more quilts to keep warm at night than burn a stove in the room," said border soldier Zhu Xing.
"I can even get short of breath sitting still," Zhu added.