[Ferro-Alloys.com] For decades, China's infrastructure project providers have been heavily focused on building roads, bridges, dams, railways and airports both at home and abroad. Starting in recent years, many such enterprises have begun to deploy more capital and resources into environmental protection projects to remain competitive in this lucrative sector.
One such example is underway in North China. Supported by more than 2,000 employees, China Railway Investment and Construction Co Ltd (CRICC), a subsidiary of centrally-administrated State-owned enterprise China Railway Group Ltd, has invested 13.6 billion yuan ($1.98 billion) in Tangshan, Hebei province, to build a flora-themed park in previous mining areas to further diversify its business activities.
The Tangshan Sea of Flowers project covers an area of 11.02 square kilometers in the city's Kaiping district. It is a large-scale ecological environment restoration project invested, constructed and operated by Beijing-based CRICC.The project aims to ecologically restore Tangshan's previous mining sites as the country pursues a synergy between environmental protection and economic growth.
Because heavy industries such as coal, iron and steel grew rapidly and caused environmental degradation since the 1990s, the scarcity of resources and the deteriorating environment have pushed Kaiping's economic growth into a weakened position. The remaining mining areas, adjacent landfills and dilapidated factories are an eyesore in northeast Tangshan, said Nian Fubing, CRICC's labor union chairman.
As a demonstration project to transform a traditional industrial city into a global tourism city, CRICC plans to re-engineer former mining areas and facilities into two lakes, four mountains and a number of grasslands and roadways, as well as cultivate 54 varieties of flowers and 26 species of plants in selected places, covering an area of 235 hectares within the park.
Nian said many opportunities are emerging from the government's call to stress the concepts of: clear waters and green mountains are as valuable as mountains of gold and silver; strive to win the battles against air, water and soil pollution; encourage the development of green industries and renewable energy, and promote economical use and recycling of resources.
The project－with a zoo, art and commercial zones, as well as many supporting facilities－is expected to be operational in the second half of 2021.
"Even though the COVID-19 pandemic delayed our work pace in the first quarter, all of our employees have undergone contagion prevention and control protocols and training to ensure worker health and safety," said Xiao Weirong, the project's chief engineer.
Eager to create more economic returns in the future, CRICC's management team is planning to introduce more investors from tourism, hotel and educational sectors to further enrich the park's earning potential, he said.
The Tangshan Sea of Flowers project will boost the city's GDP and better serve the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, bringing investment to sectors such as retail, transportation and logistics as well as creating jobs in the service sector, Xiao said.
Zhang Chunxiao, an economics researcher at the National Academy of Governance, said cautious reopening of businesses, recreational spots and major scenic attractions around the country has boded well for China's contagion-hit tourism sector that is now seeking to meet surging domestic travel demand.
As of mid-August, the number of tourists booking package tours through Trip.com, the country's largest online travel agency, jumped 150 percent on a monthly basis, while orders for self-guided tours expanded 126 percent, according to a report released by the company.
With the population once again on the move, tourism-related sectors including accommodation, transportation and entertainment are ready for a rebound, Zhang said.
"To spur the economy amid mounting downside pressure and disruptions from the pandemic, the government has not only introduced supportive policies but also fostered a better natural and business environment for SOEs as well as foreign and private companies in various sectors," said Wan Xucai, a professor at Nanjing University of Finance and Economics.
From a long-term perspective, China's tourism and leisure industries must deepen risk management by improving service quality and innovating business models to promote healthy development, Wan said.
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