Home / Opinion / Outstanding entries

The belt road in the eyes of the scientists

By François de la Chevalerie | | Updated: 2017-06-02 17:42

Some years ago, I attended a conference on climate change in Ürümqi at the Xinjiang University.

On stage, a very old man with tangled air and a frail silhouette. Standing at his side, young people of all origins.

Behind them, a map extends beyond the borders of China as it stretches from the Kamchatka Russian peninsula to the Caspian Sea and Asia Minor.

In front of an audience of scientists of every ethnic background, the ageless speaker cited the challenges associated with the global warming.

- It may affect negatively to the ecosystem of whole Central Asia and its territory, he said.

After one-hour speech, he glanced toward the young people, asking: ”What can we do to keep the next generation safe?”

- There is an answer, he replied with a shaky voice. During a millennium, the Silk Road has served the development of science and research. Without its historical contribution, the world would not be where it is today.

After providing some examples, he added earnestly.

- Perhaps you may think that the biggest inventions of all time are Chinese. In fact, this is far more complex. From there Chinese source to the Mediterranean Sea, each invention has evolved, becoming more substantial, more consistent. Through this vast corridor, every clever man brought their setting stone. It was mainly a human collective process.

A thunder of applause resounded in the amphitheatre. As the officials congratulated the speaker, the audience gave him a five minutes standing ovation.

As the conference ended, with many, I rushed to the professor.

- Is the belt road a promising idea for the decades to come? I questioned abruptly.

The old man stared at me without saying anything. Sitting on a chair, he seemed exhausted. He was very pale almost ghastly and so thin. Then he whispered to the young people to respond on its behalf. I found myself straightaway surrounded by multicolored faces.

A tall young man, blond hair and blue eyes, put his finger on the map somewhere in Siberia.

- How are we going to do with the large amount of methane that spread into the sky due to the permafrost thawed ?

Then, a typical Han girl glided her finger over the map from the Kuznetsk Basin to the Shanxi province, then to Bogatyr (Kazakhstan) and Kara-Keché (Kirghizstan).

- The pollution caused by the coalmines is not something to be taken for granted, she said with a trembling voice. If we collect all knowledge available in our research centers, we could effectively combat the source of the trouble.

- More than 60% fresh water of whole Central Asia is accumulated in the glaciers of Tajikistan, continued a red hair young fellow. Their current melting leads to the increase of the desertification of a vast area that covers several countries.

- Talking about the contamination of soil and groundwater, pursued a Turkmenistan native, our countries should gather their forces to combat poor irrigation methods ranging from pesticides to salination and water logging.

- Our country, Kazakhstan, is in a state of “ecological crisis” due to the nuclear test during the soviet era, added a couple, their face bearing a solemn expression.

- Organic pollutants affect our Republic of Karakalpakstan of Uzbekistan, two girls said shyly.

- Desertification and biodiversity loss are among the environmental issues on the agenda in Iran, stated a strapping lad.

- The same in the Turkmenistan's Cheleken peninsula, suggested another one.

At the end, the very end, a young woman stood among us.

A heavy tense and embarrassed silence fell upon the audience.

- My land is ravaged by war and desolation, she complained, the voice distraught. A long time ago, our landscapes were magnificent. Now, our countryside became sick. The evil is trapped underground for centuries, thousand of cluster bombs and landmines everywhere.

Suddenly, the old professor stood up and said with a quavering voice.

- There is not much time before my death. But there is enough time to take control again of the situation. The belt road should be managed as a hydrographic basin. Everyone one in his area should ensure that the river would flow to the ocean free of any pollution, contamination as it has been since the dawn of time.

When I walked out the university, I joined in a street restaurant old friend from several Asian countries. Although we have known the environmental problems for years, the hailstorm of points raised by the young students took us by surprise. We were confused and disturbed.

- That is fairly troubling, commented a physicist from the University of Tashkent. I taught during 20 years thermodynamics and electromagnetism. I realized how futile are my abilities if they aren’t connected with the today major issues.

- Since three decades I have been involved in chemistry at the university of Alma Alta, said another one. I have to acknowledge that my teachings are somewhat hackneyed. What I am doing does not enable us to resolve the methane dissemination in Siberia ?

- I spent my whole life by obsessed by the recognition of my peers, disrupted an academic from the Islamabad National University of Sciences, that’s simply laughable!

- I am passionate about mathematical equations, added an Iranian rooted in Teheran. But what are they used for?

- On those days when a dense, brown blanket lies over the city, it's easy to feel the weight of smog, another said.

- We have to be humble in our approach, continued a scientist from the university of Chongqing.

At that moment, the young fellows passed on. Their faces lighted up with joy, they walked along the street with a firm step. Far from there, the tiān shān North Slope shone over the horizon.

- We no longer have to spend time, concluded the Tashkent professor, spreading out his arms. The burden is a heavy one but it is far from insurmountable if we act in concert as those young persons.

Back in Tianjin, later on, I received hundred of email. From Tachkent, Bishket, Ashgabat, Astana, Chiraz, Istanbul, Taiyuan, Xining and others, working groups emerged in research centers or universities. Unlimited topics on the table: Air pollution, soil pollution, effluents charged with heavy metals, coalmines emission, radioactive nuclear waste, etc. Reflecting my experience, each message was linked to a specific demand. “We would like to know whether you can work on this issue ». For each subject, a deadline was set with a warning. « We can no longer wait to take action. Be aware your part will not delay. This is vital for the world future”. I received also a postcard from a distinguished professor at the university of Achgabat. “We are on the right track! » He wrote. On the back, a camel stands in front of a chemical plant adjacent to the Caspian Sea.

“We are on the way”, this is the motto of “The University Alliance of the Silk Road”. This organization, established in 2015, has the aim of building educational and research collaboration in countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt. “We may not have another chance” warns its constitutive act. Here, the belt road up and running again!


Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349