It is difficult to establish greenery in Abu Dhabi, while commercial agricultural forms have been sought as a coveted measure to keep up with the modern era ever since the 1950s. However, the results of it did not always meet with success.
Thanks to the Chinese technology which was used to turn the Gobi desert into lush green vegetation as sunflowers thrived to transform the desert landscape could also change the “dunes of Sweihan” within a period of six months. The Chongqing Jiaotong University researchers will get ten square kilometres in Abu Dhabi’s “spartan interior of the emirate” for growing “desert grasses, vegetables and shrubbery”. The government, however, has classified 85% of this area to a “naturally-degraded”.
Researcher, Wang Min presented to the government officials of UAE the transformational videos and slides wherein “flattened dunes in inner Mongolia” were being “tilled by tractors and bushy chaffs of sorghum blowing in the wind”. While she said:
“You can see the grass here and the crops, more than 40 types of crops, are growing prosperously in the sand. This is after only four months of soilisation”.
The technology has been termed as “Soilisation” by the researchers, although the details on how the technology works was kept short, while “its reliance on physics instead of chemicals” was elaborated to a great detail, as the Vice-President of the University, Yi Zhijian, described:
“It’s a mechanical manipulation, not chemical”.
Abu Dhabi will provide an opportunity wherein the technology could be tested to see if this can find place in the commercial agricultural sector to promote cultivation in the “most extreme climates on Earth”. “Chongqing Earthskin Eco-technology” waits for the project to yield success for developing the same in a commercial scale. In fact, the company has also entered into an agreement with Mawarid Holding, the manager of Abu Dhabi forests along with much of the country’s agricultural production.
Mawarid Holding has received the government support and it will provide the funds for the above mentioned project. In the words of the “Minister of Climate Change and Environment”, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi:
“The way that you managed to transform huge areas of the desert into cultivated land and green areas is a model that we looked at in a very interested manner.
“We’re looking forward to implementing it here in the UAE”.
Nevertheless, the government officials are betting their hopes on the technology to turn into a food security promoter, while twenty crops were identified by the government for this purpose, for example “wheat, rice, types of livestock fodder and varieties of dates and mangoes”. And Dr Al Zeyoudi added:
“We’re going to give full support to ensure the success of this project”.
The technology of soilisation was being developed from 2009. It has now come to Abu Dhabi after its successful venture in Ulan Buh Desert of China, wherein it reclaimed the desert through steppe cultivation. Photographs showed “ripe radishes, watermelon, aubergine and potatoes” that were harvested from the dunes that appeared identical to Al Ain. Dr Al Zeyoudi said:
“It’s one of the strategic options when it comes to producing our own food locally”.
“As you all know more than 85 per cent of our food comes from abroad so one of the main pillars for food security is to ensure that we do produce certain crops here in the UAE.”
This project is considered to be beneficial for the “Belt and Road Initiative” which aims to provide a linking corridor to China from Europe, as Dr Zhijian stated:
“We aim to serve the Belt and Road initiative. You see there are a lot of countries along the Belt and Road that are suffering from [desertification] and which are in need of soilisation technology.”
The experiments were carried out in China with the help of “sands watered by aquifers and piped water”; while in Abu Dhabi the project will test the technologies response to “highly saline water and salty soil”. In stage one the researchers will chalk out “an ecological and agricultural plan” suitable to “large-scale commercialisation and application”.
And in the following stage, they will carry out “two to three-year experiment” to determine the cost reduction besides gathering the data on water consumption. Soil and water preservation is a “national priority” for nearly “8,000 farms” had to be abandoned due to “increasing salinity and salty soil”, for both these resources were considered to be “non-renewable”.
Furthermore, Dr Al Zeyoudi gave a hint that one could expect the announcements of “related projects” in the near future, whereby adding:
“Soil is one of the big issues that the whole world is facing and techniques by Chinese researchers and institutions are going to have a huge impact globally, not only in the UAE.
“Desertification is becoming a global challenge that everyone has to work towards.”