Skip to main content

Disputes, pollution, deforestation — what it’s like to live near CPEC project in Pakistan


China insists that BRI projects, of which CPEC is the centerpiece, are strictly vetted for environmental impacts and meant to benefit the locals. But in practice, it has fallen short.

BLOOMBERG NEWS
A development site at Marine Drive in Gwadar, Balochistan, Pakistan
A development site at Marine Drive in Gwadar in Balochistan. Gwadar is the cornerstone of OROB project | Photo: Asim Hafeez | Bloomberg File Photo

A lot has been written about China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. Economists have debated the debt dynamics. Political scientists have analyzed how it fits into the rising power’s geopolitical strategy. And climate experts have decried the emissions China is adding to the atmosphere by supporting fossil fuel projects.

Rarely do we hear from the people whose lives are directly affected by the program. Earlier this year, a coalition of activist groups published Belt and Road Through My Village, a compilation of interviews with about 100 local residents who live close to BRI projects in five Asian countries.

It was a chance for them to express their concerns, and the list is long: disputes over land use rights, water and air pollution, deforestation, and loss of indigenous culture are just some of the issues they raised. The stories are a powerful reminder to governments and investors to consider the environmental and social impact of the BRI.

Muhammad Asif, 42, used to work at the Sahiwal coal-fired power plant, a BRI project built on 690 hectares of fertile land between Karachi and Lahore — Pakistan’s two biggest cities. The plant created more than 3,000 jobs and has been held up as an example of the good the BRI can do.

But Asif worries about the damage the plant is doing to the land and air. “All this development work has its cost,” he says in the book. Contaminated water from the plant is released into a nearby canal that’s used for crop irrigation and drunk by cattle. “We fear that this contaminated water may sicken our cattle and make our lands barren or, at least, contaminate the produce. Air pollution is also becoming a problem as people have begun suffering from nasal, skin and lung diseases,” he says.


Investment risk

China insists that BRI projects are strictly vetted for environmental impacts and are meant to benefit the people who live in those areas, but in practice it has fallen short in introducing concrete steps to limit its financing of carbon-intensive practices. Local communities have also complained about a lack of transparency around the projects.

That’s slowly changing as environmental concerns become a greater investment risk. In Myanmar, the $3.6 billion Myitsone hydroelectric dam co-developed by China Power Investment Corp. has been stalled since 2011 following large protests over the lack of a proper environmental assessment. The license for a $2 billion coal power plant in Lamu was canceled by a tribunal in Kenya because the public wasn’t consulted. A China-funded dam under construction on the Indonesia island of Sumatra is also facing fierce protests for posing a serious threat to endangered orangutans.

As countries step up their climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, more governments are expected to turn away from coal and other projects that damage the environment.

Pakistan, for example, said at the Climate Ambition Summit this month that it will stop building coal-fired plants. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the centerpiece of the BRI, has been long criticized for increasing Pakistan’s dependence on coal. “If coal-fired power is now being de-prioritized within CPEC, then it could also happen right across the BRI program,” says Simon Nicholas, an analyst at Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Steps taken by China

Even as awareness grows within China that it has to manage such risks, the government has so far only issued non-binding recommendations to improve green standards in its overseas investments.

The BRI International Green Development Coalition, which is supervised by China’s environmental ministry, this month proposed a color-coded classification mechanism as a way to better assess environmental risks assessments. The system would be based on three major factors: pollution prevention, climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation. Projects that would cause “significant and irreversible” damage would mandate stricter supervision from the government, harder financing conditions and more stringent financing status disclosure requirements.

That sounds like step in the right direction, but the proposal is merely a suggestion. More government departments and state banks would have to get on board for it to be implemented.

What’s missing are laws that require environmental and social assessments for every overseas project the BRI is considering investing in, according to Wang Xiaojun, founder of  People of Asia for Climate Solutions, a Manila-based nongovernmental organization which co-published the book. Policymakers need to understand that local concerns are real and will increasingly become an important factor in determining the success of a project, he says.

One of the official goals of the BRI is to enhance people-to-people communication. That’s “the hardest but also the most urgent,” says Wang. “To hear the people, instead of excluding them from the dialog, should be the first step to reach this goal.”- Bloomberg


Also read: Pakistan’s love for military now has Chinese money and will soon have legislative power


 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

https://theprint.in/world/disputes-pollution-deforestation-what-its-like-to-live-near-cpec-project-in-pakistan/571174/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed. Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area” For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number” Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell yo

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میں Please help the deserving persons... Salary: Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows; Welder: Rs. 1,700 daily Heavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Mason: Rs. 1,500 daily Helper: Rs. 850 daily Electrician: Rs. 1,700 daily Surveyor: Rs. 2,500 daily Security Guard: Rs. 1,600 daily Bulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Concrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Roller operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Steel fixer: Rs. 2,200 daily Iron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 daily Account clerk: Rs. 2,200 daily Carpenter: Rs. 1,700 daily Light duty driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Labour: Rs. 900 daily Para Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 daily Pipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 daily Storekeeper: Rs. 1,700 daily Office boy: Rs. 1,200 daily Excavator operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Shovel operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Computer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Security Supervisor: Rs.

A ‘European Silk Road’

publication_icon Philipp Heimberger ,  Mario Holzner and Artem Kochnev wiiw Research Report No. 430, August 2018  43 pages including 10 Tables and 17 Figures FREE DOWNLOAD The German version can be found  here . In this study we argue for a ‘Big Push’ in infrastructure investments in greater Europe. We propose the building of a European Silk Road, which connects the industrial centres in the west with the populous, but less developed regions in the east of the continent and thereby is meant to generate more growth and employment in the short term as well as in the medium and long term. After its completion, the European Silk Road would extend overland around 11,000 kilometres on a northern route from Lisbon to Uralsk on the Russian-Kazakh border and on a southern route from Milan to Volgograd and Baku. Central parts are the route from Lyon to Moscow in the north and from Milan to Constanţa in the south. The southern route would link Central Europe with the Black Sea area and