Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative in Cambodia Based on Experiences from China
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A central component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) entails mega infrastructure projects that will pass through more than 70 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe. In theory, investment in transportation projects, if done in a participatory manner, can deliver economic and social benefits to millions of people while minimizing environmental and social harms. However, in practice, these projects often ignored their social dimensions which have resulted in forced evictions, loss of livelihoods and destruction of cultural and religious practices of local communities, and particularly of women and indigenous people. Drawing from literature on environmental procedural obligations, this paper hypothesizes that a robust Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process where the public is meaningfully engaged is a crucial step toward achieving the goals of meeting economic development while mitigating environmental and social impacts in transportation projects. This is feasible provided that the state, through its regulatory instruments, adopts a more open, representative and participatory process in its approval of large scale projects, such as those that are being realized through the BRI. To operationalize this hypothesis, this paper qualitatively compared the experiences from the on-going development of the Beijing-Daxing International Airport with the upcoming construction of the Koh Kong International Airport, in Cambodia.
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