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Monday, June 25, 2018, 14:48
Water tech for the world's needy
By Ouyang Shijia
Monday, June 25, 2018, 14:48 By Ouyang Shijia

In this undated photo, an engineer of Wuhan Dongchuan Water Environment Tech tests equipment at the free trade zone of Gwadar Port in Pakistan. (PHOTO / PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Even around 6 am May sunrise in Pakistan's Gwadar Port area, the searing summer heat is palpable, and the day will only get hotter with mercury chasing the 50-degrees-Celsius mark, but Chinese executive Liu Xiaochuan is unfazed.

In fact, the 43-year-old general manager of Wuhan Dongchuan Water Environment Technology Co looks forward to yet another hectic busy day on the China-backed project to provide fresh water to Gwadar's denizens.

In Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and prayers which spanned May-June this year, their only other respite from heat, it seems, is the deceptively welcome sight of the waters of the Arabian Sea, not very far from the local desert area.

With a population of around 80,000 people, Gwadar needs to build up at least a production capability of 60,000 tons per day in the next five to 10 years in the future, said Liu Chuan, chairman of Wuhan Dongchuan

Liu will help provide water supply and teach local employees technical skills required to run the water project in the long term. "Currently, there are no waterlines in the city. So we need to arrange trucks to offer emergency water supplies during the Ramadan period."

In the past, Liu taught international trade to collegians and held part-time jobs at Wuhan Dongchuan, a company his elder brother Liu Chuan founded in 2003.

In 2007, he quit his teaching job and began to work full time with his brother, devoting a major part of his time to local water projects in Pakistan.

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Based in Central China's Hubei province, Wuhan Dongchuan has built around seven water projects in Pakistan, including a seawater desalination plant, a sewage treatment project and a pipe network. Currently, it has business in other countries and regions participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, such as Malaysia, Thailand, the Middle East and South America.

For a port that yearns for a bright future and seeks to transform itself into an international city, Gwadar severely lacks the most essential element of life-drinking water.

"On average, its annual precipitation is around 200 millimeters, which is extremely water-deficient," said Liu Chuan, chairman of Wuhan Dongchuan. "The locals usually use trucks to transport drinkable water from hundreds of kilometers away, and they need to pay a high price for that."

In January this year, the company installed two sets of desalination equipment at the Gwadar Free Trade Zone, with a daily production capacity of 1,000 tons of clean drinking water.

With a population of around 80,000 people, Gwadar needs to build up at least a production capability of 60,000 tons per day in the next five to 10 years in the future, said Liu Chuan.

Seeing the big potential in the local water business, Liu Chuan expects the company's revenue will surge to more than 100 million yuan (US$15.5 million) this year, compared to more than 60 million yuan in 2017.

"Last year, roughly half of the revenues came from overseas projects. We aim to see revenues from overseas markets account for a larger portion of the total."

Technicians of Wuhan Dongchuan Water Environment Tech oversee the installation of the long shaft pump for the fire protection system at Port Qasim in Pakistan in May 2011. (PHOTO / PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Liu Chuan said while developed European countries and the United States are competitive in terms of infrastructure construction, China has accumulated a lot of experience during recent years, shaping to be at the forefront in some specific fields.

"We've got 97 water treatment and related patents, and the number is set to hit more than 100 this year," he said. "The Belt and Road Initiative has brought new opportunities for Chinese firms to improve their technologies and enhance business operations. Every effort devoted to tackling problems will make breakthroughs."

READ MORE: PM: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor helps boost economy

For instance, due to the high salinity, the marine mollusks including shells usually grow quickly in the Gwadar region, which will be easily drawn into the intake pipes and block water flow. To solve the problem, the company has developed a device to prevent marine creatures from growing in the water intake pipes.

Similarly, another breakthrough was the material of water pipes-it is environmentally friendly and hygienic, which allows citizens to directly drink the tap water.

Shaikh Muhammad Shariq, chief representative at the National Bank of Pakistan, said the Belt and Road Initiative makes it easier for future cooperation between China and other countries and regions involved in the initiative.

"China has transformed tremendously during recent years, acquiring advanced technologies in many fields. And Pakistan has abundant labor as more than 60 percent of the population is under 25 years old. So, that's a good chance for Chinese companies to take their technologies to Pakistan and take advantage of the huge local labor resources," Shariq said.

READ MORE: China's Belt & Road Initiative seen as complementing UN goals

According to him, as Chinese companies continue to expand globally, they should also be aware of the challenges ahead.

"They need to have a better understanding of the local market to adjust to the environment. I would suggest they should learn to cooperate with local companies and financial institutions, may be by way of joint ventures."

Liu Chuan agreed, saying he is looking for more business opportunities in the overseas markets, especially developing economies related to the Belt and Road Initiative, as they have a huge demand for infrastructure construction.

"We plan to use internet-related technologies to develop more business and apply our patents to more overseas projects, providing better water supply and water treatment solutions to local citizens."

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