By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
Shi Feng, deputy division director of the China-Asean Environmental Cooperation Centre, told a UN Environment Sustainable Development Forum in Bangkok yesterday that the Chinese government worked in close collaboration with other countries. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, every Chinese investment project – both regional and bilateral – follows best business practices and ensures proper environmental protection, Shi insisted.
China is pushing large-scale investments and pursuing extensive economic expansion in many regions under its Belt and Road Initiative.
However, Shi said Beijing has acknowledged people’s concerns about the impacts Chinese investment projects would have on the environment and natural resources of destination countries.
Beijing has put forth its best efforts to ensure the highest environmental protection standards for all its direct investment projects and so relieve local people’s worries, he said.
Since the official proclamation of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, China has poured around US$1-trillion (Bt32-trillion) into more than 60 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa. Much of the money has gone toward developing a network of roads, railways, oil pipelines, power grids, ports and other infrastructure projects to create a 21st-century version of the ancient “Silk Road”, while strengthening China’s influence on global trade and the world economy.
“I would like to ensure that our work in the Belt and Road Initiative is green, as our perspective towards development has already turned toward environmental protection. All our investment projects are also closely regulated to ensure that they are not violating the environmental laws of both destination countries and China,” Shi said.
He added that China was now a global leader in developing technology, ensuring that investors are equipped with modern technology to prevent and mitigate project impacts on the environment and ecosystems.
Investors eyeing SE Asia
With Southeast Asia getting increased attention by Chinese investors, the China-Asean Environmental Cooperation Centre set up a branch in Cambodia to ensure “proper regulation and environmental protection” of Chinese projects in the country.
Additional branches will be opened in other Asean countries as the number of Chinese-led projects increase, including in Laos and Thailand, he revealed.
“China has suffered environmental degradation and pollution problems stemming from rapid industrial development over the past decades,” Shi said. “So we have learned first-hand that economic development without environmental consideration will result in very expensive harm.”
Also at the event, Asia-Pacific governments were encouraged to further develop strong and clear policies to support low-carbon lifestyles, environmentally friendly development and a circular economy in order to make effective progress on achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
Complaints are growing in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia about potential damage to the environment and communities from Chinese-backed hydropower projects along the Mekong.