On the 29th of September, Crude Accountability, together with Social Environmental Fund, and Civil Society Development Association, held an online event to discuss current environmental issues connected to Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in Central Asia and to create steps to improve the environmental assessment and oversight of such projects.
The webinar was attended by over 40 representatives of the five Central Asian countries – civil society members, academics, international experts, and journalists.
During the webinar, the organizers’ working group presented a draft briefing on the environmental aspects of BRI projects in the region.
In their presentations, the authors of the brief highlighted the environmental aspects of some of China’s investment projects in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The authors also provided an overall assessment of BRI environmental perspectives and drew on experience from the China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor.
Reviewing the research and recommendations provided in the draft brief, participants discussed its conclusions and developed recommendations for Central Asian government authorities, local communities, and civil society, as well as for Chinese governing bodies.
“This project is our contribution to a productive public dialogue and a constructive discussion,” said Sergey Solyanik, Crude Accountability consultant. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of speculation, phobias, and misinformation, when it comes to Chinese projects in Central Asia, so we are basing the discussion on facts and documentation to try to improve the situation.”
Provision of public information and conducting open and effective environmental assessments of BRI projects are necessary, explains Solyanik, and compliance with the provisions of the Aarhus Convention will improve their effectiveness. With the exception of Uzbekistan, all Central Asian countries are parties to the Aarhus Convention.
Currently, the ‘green’ component of BRI is based on voluntary guiding principles. Improving environmental oversight of BRI projects in Central Asia will depend on greater political will and the countries’ abilities to introduce, support, and apply strict environmental laws and regulations.
One result of the webinar was the agreement by organizers and participants to continue discussing the issue and promoting the brief and its recommendations both inside and outside of the region.
The brief was prepared as part of the Environmental Assessment of the Belt and Road Initiative project implementation by the Social Environmental Fund (SEF) with support from the U.S. Embassy to the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The webinar recording is available here: https://bit.ly/3nhr5hX
The draft briefing is available here: https://bit.ly/3jDC0QU
For more information:
Sergey Solyanik, Coordinator of the Environmental Assessment of the Belt and Road Initiative project, Consultant to Crude Accountability