Scarcity, fragility, preservation: the development of Kashgar
- 06 October 2011
By Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group.
It was my first time in Kashgar, and I was amused by all I saw and heard. Looking out from the airplane, I noticed the yellowish mountains stretching out to the furthest end that could not be seen. They were covered with sporadic greens and some white patches of snow on the summits. You can sense the dryness and how desperately the place is in need of water. When we landed, however, we were impressed with a completely different scenario of greenness, as if we were brought to a distinct climate zone.
Kashgar lies at the foot of Heavenly Mountain (TianShan). The snow on the summit melts and creates the oasis, on which Kashgar relies. Polar, aspen, red ammannia, and other drought tolerant plants flourish everywhere. Strolling in Kashgar city, I found it hard to link this place with drought. Nevertheless, just a few miles away from the city, the surroundings changed drastically, especially along the way to Bachu County. For the first time in my life, I saw the Gobi desert, awing at the lifelessness of Heavenly Mountain in person. Not even a patch of grass could be spotted.
It took us three hours to get to Bachu, where the oasis was broader. Bachu is richer in flora and fauna compared to Kashgar. There stand the largest polar forest in the world. The reservoir, often referred to as the Red Sea, shined in the glow of the sunset. We ran into locals coming for fishing from time to time. It was said that no one would come in vain. Not long ago, someone was even lucky enough to catch a fish with the length as the height of an adult. The native way of cooking fish is grilling it on the spot. You can fantasize the smell just by looking at the pictures.
The picturesque greens ceased abruptly. Right along the forest lays the largest desert in China, Taklamakan Desert. All of a sudden, you would realize how easily the ecological environment here could be damaged. It is in this region with fragile environment, scarce resources, and abundant historical assets, that China’s sixth special economic zone will be established. With the concept of East Shenzhen, West Kashgar in mind, Kashgar is to be built as a pearl in western China and the City of Middle Asia. It will become a crucial border city that builds the linkage between China, Middle Asia, South Asia, and Europe.
How should we develop? How can we achieve sustainable development? These are the challenges that the government of Kashgar must tackle in no time. With the lack of resources and the feeble environment, we urge the municipal government to shed as much light on preservation as growth. This is not only a challenge, but also an opportunity. It has been 33 years since China’s opening-up. Kashgar should learn a lesson from the suffering of the take-off of Chinese cities along the east coast. At the same time, thanks to the success of other economic zones, Kashgar can grow on the foundation others had laid and prosper.
There are some main foci of Kashgar’s green development. The solution to drought is urgent and vital. Do you still remember the classic Xiniiang movie, On Iceberg Guest? The scene of TianShan covered with ice and snow can hardly be seen today. The snow line of the mountain has backed away up to 1000 meter in less than five years. If the trend continues, the disappearance of the oases in the near future can be foreseen. Therefore, to use and reuse the water efficiently is one of the core tasks in Kashgar.
Solar power is a unique endowment. Kashgar can depend solely on solar power and other natural resources to become the first emerging city that completely abandon the use of fossil fuel in China. When constructing Kashgar New City Zone, we can efficiently combine the preservation of the environment and sustainable development with urban planning, energy management, construction, traffic, electricity, recycling, clean energy, and green industrialisation.
Try picturing this scene in mind: In twenty years, you casually enjoy your day at East Lake Park in Kashgar. The wind gently sweeps past, the air all fresh and clean. A few excursion boats linger in the middle of the lake, unwilling to leave the beautiful sunset and the shimmering water behind. The residential houses nearby are tall. The thin solar veils cover the roofs, dimming as the sun sinks into the mountains. Through the window, you see the lights start to glow one after another. People gradually come back from work and from school. Dinner is cooked with solar powered equipment, stories of the day shared at the table. You think to yourself it is time to return. Ambling out of the park, you get on the electric-propelled bus. You lay back and turn to appreciate Kashgar at night. Along the road, the LED lights run on solar energy softly glitter with warmness, accompanying you all the way back home.