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New power grid project starts in southern Xinjiang

  URUMQI, March 12 (Xinhua) -- A new power grid project kicked off Tuesday in the southern part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to the State Grid Xinjiang Electric Power Co. Ltd.

  The company plans to invest 4.6 billion yuan (about 676 million U.S. dollars) in the project this year, which is expected to benefit 316,000 households in Hotan, Kashgar and Kizilsu Kirgiz prefectures in southern Xinjiang.

  The project is designed to replace coal with electricity as the main energy source, which will make heating more affordable for rural residents and help protect the local environment.

  The four prefectures sit on the edge of the Taklimakan Desert, the largest desert in China and the second-largest shifting sand desert in the world, where the natural conditions have caused significant poverty.