CPEC and Prospects of Green Marshall Plan:  A Policy Review | By Dr Mehmood

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CPEC and Prospects of Green Marshall Plan:  A Policy Review

 The devastating floods in Pakistan have become a global icon of looming climate change symbolism. It has produced havoc in all the provinces and regions of the country. It demolished valuable infrastructures. It ruined cashable commodities, crops, local economies and communities alike.

In this regard, according to official estimates the country has lost more than US$15-20 billion from the ongoing floods which are indeed a great loss. Therefore the concept of “Green CPEC” should be further streamlined and strengthened.

In this direction, there is an urgent need for green development in the country in which the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can play an important role. It has brought an era of green development through green projects for future generations to have a healthy environment. It is an important pilot project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which promotes the construction of green infrastructure, the development of green technology and green finance.

Moreover, discarding of coal generated energy projects in the BRI projects has further consolidated China’s policy maker’s persuasions of green development. Therefore, since the energy sector is one of the fastest growing and most fruitful areas of cooperation under the CPEC which should be further regularized for achieving the desired goals of green energy development in the country which would have serious impacts on the climate change ratios in the country.

It seems that cooperation between the two countries in the field of clean energy has been continuously strengthened by completing five wind power projects, one solar power project and one hydropower project, besides three hydropower projects under construction.

Moreover, various research papers and publications clearly indicate that the green development of the CPEC is on the rise which has facilitated to increase the local employment and technical education in Pakistan and also enhancing Pakistan’s green and sustainable development capacity. It seems that China is ready to make use of its experience and technology in related fields to assist Pakistan to realize its vision for green development.

China and Pakistan have jointly taken an important step. A state-of-the-art weather monitoring station was established in Peshawar in August 2022 by The Belt and Road lidar Network. Pakistan already has a weather forecasting system which is utilized as much as possible, and now the station has been installed with the latest equipment.

In this regard, while addressing to the 77th session of United Nations General Assembly the Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif urged the world leaders to come together and “act now” to deal with the issue of climate change.

The Prime Minister narrated colossal human and collateral damages due to climate change which resultantly melted glaciers fast, burnt forests produced unbearable heat waves (53 degree C), made the country the hottest place on the planet.

The Prime Minister said this calamity has pushed some 11 million people below the poverty line, while others will drift to cramped urban shelters, leaving little room for climate-smart rebuilding.

The floods have produced huge swathes due to which 1/3 part of the country is still under-water, submerged in an ocean of human suffering. 33 million people, including women and children are now at high risk from health hazards, with 650,000 women giving birth in makeshift tarpaulins.

On the other hand the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari strongly urged to have a Green Marshal Plan to mitigate the spillover socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic ramifications of the climate change.  He attended the Closed-Door Leaders’ Roundtable on CoP-27 on the sidelines of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

To conclude, climate change has become an existential threat for all nations and peoples. Its implications are now becoming more pronounced, frequent and severe. Pakistan is facing the brunt of natural calamities in the form of heat waves, glacial outbursts, droughts, torrential rains and unprecedented monsoons, causing both human and economic losses because of greenhouse gas emissions.

It is the need of the hour to take advantage of the Chinese experience which has already turned flood into a resource by using their latest technologies. Bilateral cooperation in weather monitoring should be established as soon as possible by using equipment and glacier melting equipment which can monitor glaciers melting and conduct satellite imaging.  China can help not only in flood control, but also in agriculture, such as crop pattern optimization.

Moreover, serious issues of smog in metropolitan cities may also be resolved with the help of China which has controlled the pollution in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Further complete transformation of living lifestyles is the need of hour. Common use of electric vehicles, air purifiers, and energy-saving lamps must be commonly utilized.

Pakistan has almost more than three thousand glaciers in northern areas. Since mid-June 2022, Pakistan has been drenched by extreme monsoon rains that have led to the country’s worst flooding in a decade, and had many losses of precious lives and infrastructure. Therefore bilateral glaciers study should be started as soon as possible.

The flood water brings good fertile alluvial soils, which can help improve agriculture. Therefore, the Chinese concept of “Sponge City” should be promoted in which the water is absorbed in the soil through leakage. The Sponge city model, which is also called green development interventions and green infrastructure, is used for flood control with enhanced ecological infrastructure and drainage channels. Hopefully this model can help Pakistan eliminate two pressing problems: flood and drought.

Such a model can also be used to tackle the volatility of rainfall brought by climate change.

Pakistan needs to utilize that water through rainwater collecting techniques to reduce the damage and use the rainwater in some other areas like in the agriculture sector as a substitute.

Undoubtedly, China’s generous investments under the CPEC supported the development of infrastructure and introduced alternative energy sources. The success of the CPEC has become a milestone for Pakistan, which would provide a foundation for the development in the decades to come. In this connection, the country should join hands with China for colossal cooperation to initiate more green development projects under the CPEC for future generations.

CPEC projects should also take environment, ecology, and biodiversity into consideration to combat the looming threat of climate change. The green development of the CPEC is crucial because Pakistan has witnessed the unprecedented challenges of extreme climate events in recent years in the form of flash floods and heat waves.

There is an urgent need to build a countrywide Climate Wall in the country in which all stakeholders and political parties should work by rising from their self-defined egos, glorifications and gratifications. A rigorous plantation national campaign must be compulsory in the country.

Cooperation in glacier study, forest fires, natural disasters control system, drone plantation, rescue and rehabilitation system between China and Pakistan is the need of the hour. Last but not the least, green development in CPEC Phase-II would be a strategic value addition in the days to come.

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