Understanding the environmental implications of Belt and Road Initiative projects: A focus on Southeast Asia

Author: Asmita Dudhraj

Dudhraj, Asmita, 2020 Understanding the environmental implications of Belt and Road Initiative projects: A focus on Southeast Asia, Flinders University, College of Business, Government and Law

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The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a massive infrastructure development initiative across participating states to enhance trade and connectivity. Even though the initiative aims for economic growth and development, the risk is that large infrastructural projects will have severe environmental and social impacts. Deforestation will result due to the new road and rail routes fragmenting forests. Biodiversity will be impacted and threatened species and conservation sites along BRI corridors will risk extinction. Moreover, it is well established that Southeast Asia (SE Asia) is one of the major global biodiversity hotspots suffering rapid deforestation. Hence, SE Asia is an important case study for identifying the impact of BRI projects and determining possible harm reduction measures. In this thesis I evaluate the environmental impact of five projects, assessing the effectiveness of the commitments of China and SE Asian countries to mitigation. The thesis assesses the environmental impact assessment (EIA) processes for the five projects. Biodiversity and several threatened species have been impacted, confirming that mitigation measures by both responsible governments and the developers and a comprehensive EIA is necessary for long-term environmental protection. The thesis concludes that modifications to current BRI projects are necessary if stakeholders in SE Asia are to protect threatened biodiversity and forests.

Keywords: Belt and Road Initiative, Environmental Implications, Southeast Asia, Belt and Road Projects

Subject: International Relations thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2020
School: College of Business, Government and Law
Supervisor: Dr Michael Sullivan