Retired manager makes wasteland a park

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In 1955, 22-year-old Wang Yanming left his hometown in Hebei province for Karamay, in the Gobi Desert, for a job as an oil worker.

Wang Yanming.

In the more than 60 years since, he has witnessed Karamay's transformation from a desert outpost into a modern city.

"There was literally no grass," said Wang, who has been planting trees in Karamay for the past 33 years since retiring as an oilfield manager.

"Thousands of workers left every year because they couldn't handle the tough conditions here. I wanted to do something about that, and I started to plant trees. At first, even the elms barely survived."

Wang, 87, retired as Party secretary of the No 2 Oil Production Factory in 1985, and started to plant trees in the open space around the factory.

But he had severe heart disease and could barely walk a few steps without resting. "I just told myself to toughen up," Wang said. "We sacrificed the environment to oil production in the past few decades, and now I'm going to try to make up for the losses."

Growing trees in the desert is no easy task. Wang had to start by improving the soil and experimenting with various tree species.

After he had planted enough trees at the factory, Wang turned his attention to an abandoned garbage dump. He led a greening work team made up of the families of oilfield workers that removed trash and planted trees and flowers, finally transforming the dirty, smelly site into a landscape of trees and greenery now known as Yanming Park - the first park named after a real person in Karamay.

After 30 years of hard work, greenery now covers around 8 hectares of what was once wasteland and desert. It includes more than 40,000 poplars, elms and fruit-bearing trees that have formed windbreaks.

"I'm satisfied that we have reached national standards, but I won't stop," Wang said. "I want to seize my twilight years to plant more trees for Karamay. My family, who relentlessly opposed the idea of me planting trees, have joined the cause."

Wang still takes a daily stroll around the park. "The park has become a part of my life, and every tree is my child," he said. "I will not stop planting trees here until the day I pass away."

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