Feature: Development of green industry transforms Pakistan’s Gwadar port into “green pearl”

In a nursery which covers an area of around 4,000 square meters, moringa trees whose seeds have fairly high economic values grew taller than a person, Euphorbia milii plants with green leaves and red flowers were competing with each other on appearance, and seedlings in flowerpots made of discarded plastic bottles were nourished by atomizers.

The nursery with over 40 kinds of plants is located at the Gwadar port in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. A hot and dry climate, scarce vegetation and wind-blown sand are the general impressions that Gwadar has left on people’s minds.

The Gwadar port is one of the pillar projects of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. In 2013, China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) was given the contract to operate the Gwadar port and the Gwadar Free Zone, and started to conduct all-round renovation of the port, including improvement of the ecological environment. To make the afforestation work more systematic and scientific, COPHC invited China’s Yulin Holdings which has advanced technologies in combating desertification.

“When I first arrived at Gwadar in 2016, there was almost nothing but sand, and I could barely see anything green,” said Wang Ruilei who was teaching a Pakistani worker to prune plants in the company’s nursery. Born in the 1990s, Wang has become the head of Gwadar Green Ecological S&T Company, a subsidiary of Yulin Holdings.

Wang’s company now has five Chinese employees and almost 30 Pakistani workers. Nehmat, a former fisherman and native of Gwadar, has spent two years in Wang’s company learning how to grow flowers and lay and repair irrigation pipes. “My family has been very supportive of my work here because the income is higher and more stable. And the work I do is making Gwadar more beautiful,” he told Xinhua.

The serious soil salinization and lack of water in Gwadar make it difficult to select suitable plants. “We have tried many kinds of plants and techniques including drop irrigation. Many were successful, but more failed,” Wang said.

Altogether, his team has planted 22,000 trees, 40,000 shrubs, 15,000 square meters of lawns, 25,000 pots of flowers and plants, and laid 2,000 meters of irrigation pipes in the Gwadar port area.

In order to realize the secondary utilization of water resources and prevent pollution to the environment by sewage, COPHC has built four reclaimed water systems in the Gwadar port, which also guarantees the water supply for the plants. After years of effort, the Gwadar port now becomes a green pearl in a yellow sand painting.

The lush trees, green lawns and blooming flowers still only exist in the port area, but they are exactly what many Chinese builders think Gwadar will look like in the future. According to Hu Yaozong, deputy general manager of COPHC’s subsidiary Gwadar Free Zone Company, COPHC launched a project last year to plant one million trees in Gwadar, which will greatly improve the living environment of the locals.

In addition to the nursery, Yulin Holdings plans to invest in a plant tissue culture center and an intelligent greenhouse in the Gwadar free zone under the support of COPHC, both of which will begin construction this month. After being put into use, the two facilities will be able to produce 16 million seedlings annually.

“The tissue culture center and the greenhouse will provide sufficient seedlings for Gwadar. Our products including flowers and vegetables are expected to be sold throughout Pakistan and even to Middle East countries.” said Wang.

Promoting clean energy in Gwadar is also a focus of China. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China donated 4,000 solar energy systems and LED lights to Pakistan to help the country to cope with climate change, especially in the Gwadar region.

Besides inviting a company specializing in combating desertification, COPHC also put forward strict environmental protection requirements for the companies which want to invest in the free zone. Hu said that COPHC sticks to the “dual lifeline” of investment attraction and environmental protection, and hopes to promote the economic development and the ecological construction of the free zone at the same time.

“COPHC attaches more importance to the selection of companies while attracting investment, and meeting the environmental protection standards is the most basic requirement for the enterprises entering the free zone. We hope to attract more ‘green companies’ with high scientific and technological levels, low resource consumption and low environmental pollution to ensure the sustainable development of the Gwadar port,” he added.