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Sun 20 Oct 2019 08:46 AM

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Colour Me Green: The Expo 2020 Dubai nursery

The Sustainability Pavilion will also tell the story of humankind's relationship with nature and our impact on it

Colour Me Green: The Expo 2020 Dubai nursery

The nursery at the Expo 2020 currently houses about 500,000 shrubs and 13,000 mature trees

The grass will be $75m (AED277m) greener at the Expo 2020 Dubai site as the emirate invests the amount in a nursery stretching across 220,000 sq m and housing about 500,000 shrubs and 13,000 mature trees.

Local roots

In the lead-up to the event, the nursery will welcome an additional 450,000 shrubs and 4,000 trees including a total of 440 mature ghaf trees that are 7-to-8 metres tall, and which will be transplanted from Mushrif Park in Dubai to the Expo 2020 Dubai site. Other trees include date palms, as well as mango, pomegranate and citrus trees. The Thematic Districts also house 110 trees, which were planted with zero mortality.

The plants at the Expo 2020 are being supplied by Dubai Municipality, with 90 percent sourced from local farms and nurseries. The shrubs and trees are either indigenous to the UAE or are adaptable to the environment, therefore reducing the amount of water required for irrigation.

Counting costs

Dubai Municipality is also supplying the cost effective treated sewage effluent (TSE) for the nursery’s irrigation needs, except for propagation. While TSE contains additional nutrients that encourage growth in more mature specimens, potable water is used for propagation in an industrial-scale greenhouse due to seeds being more susceptible to salts and nutrients during the early stages of growth. The nursery will see the more mature specimens remain under shelter until winter, when they will be moved to open areas or planted within the expo site.

The facility is staffed by a full-time team of specialists, employed by Expo 2020’s contractor Al Ryum Group of Companies (ARC), while supervision consultant Aecom is responsible for overseeing operations.


The nursery’s design is minimalist but creative, featuring gatch roads as an alternative to asphalt or gravel, and organic fertilisers and pesticides, as well as coco peat – a sustainable and cost-effective substitute to traditional peat moss, made from coconut husks. Moreover, the facility’s entire green waste is pruned, processed and recycled as compost.

District 2020

During the expo, half of the nursery will remain operational to grow replacement shrubs and trees in the event of damage to on-site greenery. But once the expo ends, the plants will be a part of the landscape for District 2020, a repurposed smart, sustainable and connected city destination for integrated living.


The nursery is only a smart part of the Expo 2020 Dubai Sustainability theme, as a dedicated pavilion will tell the enchanting story of humankind’s relationship with nature and our impact on it.

Terra, which means home earth, was the first thematic experience to be revealed, with the other two key sub-themes being Opportunity and Mobility.

Post-Expo 2020, Terra will become a children and science centre in new city District 2020, where it will highlight the urgency of addressing negative environmental impacts - caused in large part by human behaviour - through an experience that is designed to empower visitors to understand their impact on the environment and become agents of change.