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The BBC's Jane O'Brien
"Conservation is at the heart of Eden's ethos"
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The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"The aim of all this to teach about the the inter-relation between humans and plants"
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Saturday, 17 March, 2001, 06:43 GMT
Welcome to the Garden of Eden
Eden BBC
The Eden Project: A massive construction
Visitors will be stepping into the world's largest, most exotic greenhouse when the 86m Eden Project opens its doors on Saturday.

In a former clay pit near St Austell, Cornwall, giant futuristic domes called biomes have been built to recreate the earth's different climates, housing thousands of different plant species.

This is not a garden - we are creating a museum and the plants are a series of exhibits

Philip McMillan Browse

Calling itself "a gateway into the world of plants and people", it aims to show how sustainable development depends on plants.

Tim Smit, the man behind the project, said he hoped it would give people "a new way of looking at the world."

"If all we have created is an 86m theme park we should all be shot today," he said.

'Better by the day'

The largest of the three spheres at Eden is the Humid Tropics biome which is tall enough to house Nelson's Column.

Snaking boardwalks lead visitors through the 12,000 plants taking them from the Oceanic Islands to Malaysia and from West Africa to South America.
Eden PA
"A gateway into the world of plants"

Along with a rainforest and 25-metre waterfall, the biome, where humidity is around 65%, also contains plantations of cocoa, coffee and rubber.

Standing inside the Humid Tropics biome, Mr Smit said he was delighted with what he could see.

"I don't think anyone will walk in here and feel disappointed," he said.

"It is better than I ever imagined and it is going to get better every day."

At one point the foot-and-mouth crisis looked as if it might postpone Eden's opening but the team decided to go ahead as planned.

Disinfectant pads will be placed at Eden's entrances and exits to try to prevent the spread of the disease.

"If we had not opened we would have been saying Cornwall is closed," said Mr Smit.

Humid zone

The site hopes to attract 750,000 visitors annually, by becoming "somewhere very special that not only entertains but also encourages people to action, and provides the means for them to act".

Ways of encouraging action include linking schools around the world, and relating this educational work to practical projects, perhaps in rainforests or in local conservation initiatives.

Each "biome" is devoted to the plants of a particular climate.
Eden BBC
Thousands of plants from around the globe have been planted in the biomes

Philip McMillan Browse, horticultural director, said species were chosen according to how they fitted into the story of man's relationship with plants.

"This is not a garden. We are creating a museum and the plants are a series of exhibits," he said.

The biomes are made of a self-supporting steel hexagonal structure covered in a self-cleaning hi-tech foil.

The first designs were drawn on three paper napkins while the designers were having a cup of coffee.

Breeding programme

The plants themselves also help to control the climate inside the domes, giving off more water and therefore cooling the air as it gets hotter.

Birds, insects and reptiles appropriate to the different biomes will live in the domes and will help to control pests.

The entire project is costing 74m ($110m). It also includes a small breeding programme for endangered conifers.

The Eden Project is working with a range of partners, including the International Institute for Environment and Development, the charity Plantlife, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London, and several university departments.

The ambitious project received 43m from the Millennium Commission.

Mike O'Connor, director of the commission, said Eden's opening was "a great day".

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15 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
UK's hi-tech 'Garden of Eden'
03 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
UK's 'Garden of Eden' takes root
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