China’s mega development projects in the South Asia region, particularly Pakistan, are impacting the climate and environment, experts warned at the 52nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday.
The session was organised by the Organisation for Poverty Alleviation and Development and European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), experts highlighted the construction of highways, buildings and dams in Gilgit Baltistan by China under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project.
Talking about the impact, Myra MacDonald, a former journalist and an author said, “My focus is, yeah, ultimately China is spending billions of dollars, you know, building the CPEC project, which passes through Pakistan, which is also a disputed area. And as far as the climate is concerned, it passes through the Himalayan.”
“Well, I think the main point is that we need to look at the rise in climate change and how unpredictable it’s becoming. And if you consider the Carico room has amongst the biggest glaciers in the world, then when they start to melt or in unpredictable ways, we’re going to see a lot of flashes, more than we already see. Flash floods, and landslides, create a very difficult environment. And what I would argue is that these giant infrastructure projects that are being built are neither resilient to the unpredictability of the climate change that’s coming up, nor particularly economically viable,” she added.
Myra believes that Gilgit Baltistan faces a big risk to end up with as the region is already suffering from climate change and is geologically unstable.
“I make the same argument a bit about the diamond Bashadam that is going to displace maybe more than 30,000 people. Sometimes the numbers are bigger. It’s not clear to me at a time of accelerating climate change in that region, that it’s actually the best thing to do to address the needs of either the people of Gilgit Baltistan or even the people of Pakistan. I should also mention that China is not paying for it, she said.
Tim Foxley, a Research Fellow at EFSAS, who worked for the British Ministry of Defence, SIPRI and RUSI highlighted the Chinese close ties with the Taliban government and its intention to explore oil and minerals from the region.
“We know that the Chinese in January signed a deal for petrol exploration in Northern Afghanistan, and we know they have been talking to the Taliban about reactivating the copper mine in Logar province, so we haven’t seen a lot of activity yet but inevitability these big projects raises environmental concerns like deforestation, displacement of population, water and soil pollution”, Tim Foxley told ANI.
He added, “So if we look at wider across the BRI impact in Asia, we see a whole lot of these problems. So, we need to be very careful of what Chinese may or may not do when they sign contracts and deals in Afghanistan”.