Challenges and Outcomes of the China-pakistan Economic Corridor

Published: 2021-09-14 13:55:10
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The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an ambitious project that aims at strengthening the geo-economic dynamics of Pak-China relations. CPEC contains projects of $62 billion on infrastructure, energy as well as development of nine special economic zones in Pakistan. CPEC projects will generate three to four times more profit than this investment and boost up country’s economic growth rate at 7.5% during the period 2015-2030. It seems a breakthrough for Pakistan’s economic development by creating new businesses, job opportunities, magnifying the trade and investment, expediting the mineral exploration, agricultural development, IT system and communication channels. Furthermore, it has huge impacts on tourism, financial development and human resource development. On the other hand, CPEC is also important for China’s economy because it will provide its shortest land route to connect Middle East, Africa, and Europe, which will significantly promote china trade. China also will get the chance to develop its north-western province Xingjiang which is an underdeveloped area. Despite CPEC is a game changer for the entire region, its detailed opportunities and challenges still need to be carefully evaluated.
In Pakistan, CPEC road networks can be divided into northern section and three other ailments, western, eastern and central which starts from Pakistan through Gawadar, Balochistan and ends in Kashghar in the western part of China. As both countries are the primary beneficiaries of the project but need to avoid all possible environmental loss/es.The Karachi–Lahore Motorway (KLM) is a 1,152 km long which is under construction. The highway will also connect major cities including Hyderabad, Faisalabad and Multan. Hyderabad is densely populated city while Faisalabad and Multan have 50-60% cultivated areas. It is possible that in these cities construction of motorway will have direct and hazardous impact on people health and agriculture. It can cause people to be irritated, stressed, interrupt their ability to sleep all of which may lead to higher blood pressure, anxiety and animosity, further loss of agriculture land, decrease in productivity and direct impact on livelihood of people who survive by subsidence agriculture. Including in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province more than 54,000 trees have been chopped down; Haripur, Abbottabad, Manshera, Swat, Battgram, Shangai districts are at high risk of exposure and environmental degradation from CPEC road construction activities. It is possible that air quality will be affected by fugitive dust from construction machinery, dust may be carried long distances due to wind, native plants and species gone due to extensive cutting of trees, and impact on hydrological regime. As far as possible, construction should be avoided in dense populated, forest and cultivated areas. Assist people where resettlement is necessary, construction of flyover and underpasses at the existing roads, air quality can keep by sprinkling of water to settle dust and using wet scrubbers (particulate or gasses are collected in scrubbing liquid) to reduce dust in road construction area. Flora and fauna can fortify through sapling of trees to be planted on both sides of the road along the length. Hydrological regime protects by culvert through embankments and a subsurface drainage system to take estimated flow even for future needs and enhance environmental planning and reporting plan.
Together with this the Northern areas of Pakistan especially Gilgit Baltistan will be severely affected by this mega project. Not too long ago, the Karakorum Highway had supported only a handful of trucks that traversed its narrow route to move goods between markets in Pakistan and China. The highway is expected to carry up to 7,000 trucks in a multiday will go through biological sensitive area Khunjerab Pass and create behind 36.5 million tons of CO2 on the way to Gwadar. This, finally, will result in air and noise pollution. Emissions of CO2 released by these trucks will result in a loss of habitat, species extinction, less grasses in pastures, more diseases in wild animals, pest attacks, greenhouse gas emissions, increased frequency and intensity of melting glaciers, high turbidity in water bodies, heat waves, cold spells, droughts, could bursts, land sliding, waterborne epidemics, avalanches, heavy rain falls, as well as an outburst floods. In comparison with the fact, Emissions of CO2 can combat through improving the aerodynamic characteristics of trucks, low rolling resistance tyres, revising maximum weights and dimensions to allow for cross-border, better infrastructure management and maintenance, using biodiesel twice as efficient as common diesel and replaces old vehicle with new vehicle (fleet renewal). Unfortunately installing catalytic converters in trucks are not significant because of their conversion of nitrogen and carbon gases into carbon dioxide CO2 which is harmful.
Generally, the problem caused by noise pollution includes headaches, nausea, allergic reactions, stress related illnesses, speech interference, learning loss, sleep disruption and lost productivity. That can abate through excessive plantation; they are good noise absorbents. According to studies they can reduce noise by 5-10 decibels around them.
Moreover, environmental concerns related to power generation under CPEC also raised their head. Of these projects, about 70 percent of their planned energy capacity will be generated by coal-fired power plants. The rest is hydro (20 percent), solar (7 percent) and wind (3 percent). Most of the worrying part of coal-fired power plants under CPEC is that they have negative impact on environment and health. In recent years, if you were traveling via motorway from Islamabad to Lahore during November or December. You might have felt like your head was in the clouds. That’s thanks to the smog that engulfed large parts of Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh Provinces. This was very clear smog is not a natural phenomenon. Smog attributed to toxic car emissions and atmospheric pollutants coming from coal-fired industries. Imagine, then, what will happen to the environment when Pakistan begins mining billion of tons of coal to operate coal-fired power plants. Smog would spread across cities and rural areas, Sindh (Thar region and Port Qassim Karachi), Punjab (Sahiwal, Muzaffargarh and Rahim yar Khan), Baluchistan (Hub and Gwadar) resulted in dozens of fatal road accidents due to poor visibility. Beyond causing acute ailments such as asthma, lung tissue damage, bronchial infection and heart attack. Besides pollutants coming from coal-fired power plants can reduce by replacing traditional coal-fired power plants with supercritical coal plants. Cut pollution and CO2 about 33-45 percent. The upfront cost of such technology is 20-30 percent more than traditional coal-fired power plants. Life span is about 50 years that’s 10-15 years more than traditional coal-fired power plants.
It seems crystal clear that through this life line, Pakistan can be transformed into a fast-emerging economy. A win-win approach is paramount to accomplish the desired goal. However, ignoring environmental development is bad. No production can take place without an environmental cost, the key point is to bring these costs minimum. It is necessary to have the information of both the economic and environmental costs. It is recommended that an environmental impact assessment should be carried out for all CPEC projects (including transport infrastructure and power generation related) to identify the likely affected areas. Subsequently, appropriate measure should be taken to protect environment and public health. The plans it implements today have the potential to harm Pakistan tomorrow.

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