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How Infrastructure Projects Financed by China Could Harm Nature and Indigenous Communities

The Belt and Road Initiative is slowly shaping China’s destiny in economic development. This country is focusing on exploring global potential through infrastructure and trade. The initiative seeks to connect China to the rest of the world, meaning there is a heavy capital investment. China is currently funding over 100 countries to build infrastructure projects like; ports, power plants, railways, and roads in line with their vision.

Infrastructure Projects Financed by China

The Calm Before the Storm

Undoubtedly, the enhanced infrastructure will go a long way in fueling developing countries’ economic growth, especially in Africa and the Middle East. In addition to the economic contribution, such investments will also have social and cultural impacts, leading to the acceptance of some practices which before may have been suppressed.

For example, people from Arabic countries will likely embrace the differences in religion and beliefs. It will also lead to the growth of businesses especially in the leisure and entertainment sector such as luxury hotels and land-based casinos, which are mostly concentrated in urban cities. Better yet, these businesses will also have easy transit to online markets where the increased infrastructure will enhance internet connectivity, boosting accessibility to online casinos. Thankfully, Arabic players will have safe platforms that allow them to freely play popular casino games such as slots, baccarat, and roulette. In addition, they can claim rewarding bonuses such as welcome offers and deposit bonuses.

A Disaster in Waiting

Despite the imminent gains from the initiative, it is anticipated that the expanded human movement and economic exploration in new areas will likely promote the spread of invasive species, wildlife trafficking, and deforestation. In the past, such massive development projects elicited social strife where indigenous people faced the threat of displacement. Conservation scientists and economists have established that 60% of Chinese finance projects pose severe risks to critical habitats and endangered species.

Diverse Projects and Risks

A study conducted on 594 finance projects by the Export-Import Bank and the China Development Bank is a true reflection of the risks involved in such investments. The research took place between 2008 and 2019, where a development database was established to monitor the locations and characteristics of the projects. The banks committed over US$462 billion towards the ventures in 93 countries. This is equally the amount that the World Bank spends as a leader in development across the globe.

Unfortunately, almost half of the projects are located within critical habitats. The International Finance Corporation, a pillar of investment in third-world countries, noted that the projects occupied areas that needed special protection. The researchers mapped each project and found out that one in three projects was in a protected area. In four projects, at least a single project occupied land owned by members of an indigenous community. Conclusively, the study established that China’s global ventures could affect approximately 24% of all endangered reptiles, mammals, birds, and amphibians.

Essentially, indigenous lands are affected by affected by technology-enhanced transportation and extraction projects that include roads, pipelines, and mines. Natural habitats are mainly destroyed by energy projects that involve coal-fired firms and dams. For instance, the Laos native communities living along the Nam Ou River depend entirely on the ecosystems to support their livelihoods, yet the seven hydropower dams under construction could destroy their natural resources.

Role of the World Bank in Addressing These Risks

Over the last four decades, the World Bank has been the leading international financier of development, although its strategy is different from China. However, in the 20th century, critics attacked the World Bank, terming it a source of social conflict and environmental damage.

However, in the last three decades, the bank has worked to clear its name by implementing social and environmental policies that support development projects that are sustainable and inclusive. To strengthen this cause, the World Bank recently aligned its lending policies with the Paris Agreement on climate change, which will last until 2023.

The bank has also come up with ‘Safeguard Policies,’ which are environmental and social policies that provide a roadmap during a project’s design, implementation, and operation. These guidelines also offer a framework for consultations where the communities and members of the public are involved in conducting social and environmental assessments. These policies go a long way in restoring the livelihoods of displaced people.

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