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Projects promote ecological protection

By LUO WANGSHU | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-10 08:05
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An exhibitor introduces a book on China's geography at the Riyadh International Book Fair in 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese projects have prioritized environmental protection to promote green development in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's Red Sea Project, located on the western coast of the country, plans to build the shores — mainly between the cities of Umluj and Al Wajh in Tabuk province — into an international tourism hub featuring luxury and ecotourism.

It is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 Program, the country's long-term plan to build a vibrant society and an ambitious nation with a thriving economy.

China Harbour Engineering Company has seven projects under construction, part of the mega Red Sea Project, mainly on three offshore islands. Main tasks include improving the island environment, foundation piling for hotels and dredging a waterway channel to enter the islands.

According to the design plan, the Red Sea Project sets Maldives as an example and pays great attention to marine environmental protection.

"In the construction of the BRI projects in the Middle East region, the company has adhered to the new development concept, deeply cultivating the ideas of promoting the construction of ecological civilization and harmonious coexistence between humans and nature in the heart of every employee," said Yang Zhiyuan, general manager of CHEC Middle East Regional Management Center.

Coral reefs are one of the most complicated, diverse and vulnerable kinds in the marine ecological system. The Red Sea has been regarded as home to diverse and dense coral reefs. There are about 70 coral species within the construction areas of the project, providing habitat for thousands of fish and invertebrates that are essential for maintaining biodiversity.

CHEC has prioritized implementing environmental protection measures and protecting the marine ecosystem of the Red Sea in every step of the projects, including making plans and carrying out on-site construction, Yang said.

According to Yang, the team has set up two layers of protective walls around the construction islands to minimize the impact on the local environment.

It also set areas with 10 meters of coral reef as coral buffer reserve areas. If construction work such as dredging construction channels leads to an increase in water turbidity, a continuous and closed protective curtain will be set up to prevent backfilling untreated earth into the ocean.

No-navigation and no-anchoring zones have been set up in areas where there are coral reefs to prevent direct damage to the seabed and the ocean, he added.

To ensure that water quality meets the survival conditions for coral, a third-party environmental protection team — comprised of scientists from a local university — has been invited to monitor the concentration of suspended substances in sewage and turbidity in the surrounding waters of the construction area.

If the water quality exceeds a certain alarming level, construction will be slowed down or even suspended to take remedial plans.

The team has also reduced or even avoided construction during coral spawning times and turtle nesting seasons to protect marine animals.

The team surveys the number and location of seabirds, nests and eggs before opening a new construction site, and safely transfers them accordingly. Buffer areas will be set up outside of the construction site if those birds and their homes cannot be transferred, Yang said.

Chen Yingqun contributed to this story.

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