What are the potential environmental impacts of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)?


CSS Solved Environmental Science Past Paper 2022 | What are the potential environmental impacts of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)?

The following question of Environmental Science is attempted on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. This solved past paper question is uploaded to help aspirants understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.

Question Breakdown

The examiner expects you to provide a detailed analysis of the possible environmental effects of the CPEC project. You should discuss various aspects of the project that could impact the environment, including the construction of infrastructure projects such as roads, dams, and power plants, as well as increased vehicular traffic, air pollution, water contamination, deforestation, and loss of natural habitats. You should also explore the potential impact on natural resources, such as soil erosion, water scarcity, and biodiversity loss. Your analysis should be supported by relevant data and examples, and you should also discuss the implications of these impacts on the local population and the broader ecosystem. Finally, you should also consider potential solutions or mitigation measures that could address these environmental impacts and promote sustainable development.



2-Historical background of CPEC

3-Potential Environmental Impacts of CPEC

  • ✓Coal- based projects of CPEC
  • ✓Deforestation in search of better infrastructure
  • ✓Natural habitat destruction and resettlement of social sector
  • ✓Industrialization with unsustainable development
  • ✓Vehicle traffic and deteriorating air quality
  • ✓Environmental degradation and negatively influenced health sector
  • ✓Risk of natural catastrophes

4-Policy makers and future of CPEC in relation with environmental destruction


Answer to the Question


The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a pathway that will bring economic sustainability to the wider Eurasian region. The CPEC includes US$62 billion in investment projects for Pakistan’s infrastructure, energy, and other development initiatives. However, owing to its three potential environmental concerns and implications, CPEC could enhance climate change vulnerabilities for the faltering economy of Pakistan. It is estimated 74% of investment was allocated to energy-based projects specifically coal-based projects. Since the CPEC intended to address the issue of the energy economy, the Pakistani government was initially highly optimistic about coal projects. Over time, it has become clear that conventional coal power stations emit smog and CO2 emissions, which are the main causes of climate change and global warming.  The second major environmental concern is deforestation in search of better infrastructure and road networks from Kashghar, China, to Gwadar, Pakistan. Industrialization and vehicle traffic is another potential environmental threat posed by CPEC that is directly linked with millions of tons of carbon emission. Along with these threats, there are some other impacts are also associated with CPEC and its projects. Despite the potential climatic threats, CPEC enables Pakistan to cope with its energy crisis and deteriorating infrastructure. However, reports suggest that if effective remedial measures are not taken now, it will push Pakistan toward an even worse situation in near future. The reason, it is essential to assess the potential ecological effects of CPEC projects including transportation, infrastructure, and energy. In addition, scientists from both states should collaborate to regulate the consequences of CPEC projects on the environment.

Historical background of CPEC

CPEC, or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, is a colossal infrastructure and development project that aims to connect China’s western region with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Pakistan. The project officially launched in 2015, but its roots could be traced back several decades. China and Pakistan had close diplomatic and economic ties since the 1950s when Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China. In the 1960s and 1970s, China provided significant military and economic assistance to Pakistan during its wars with India. The idea of a larger economic corridor between China and Pakistan gained momentum in 2013, when Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).The CPEC is one of the flagship projects of the BRI. The CPEC has been a controversial project, with some critics in Pakistan expressing concerns over the country’s growing economic dependence on China, as well as issues related to transparency, environmental impact, and local participation in the project.

Image by Google

Potential Environmental Impacts of CPEC

(CPEC) is a massive infrastructure project that has the potential to cause significant environmental impacts in the region. Some of the potential environmental impacts of the CPEC are:

  • ✓ Coal- based projects of CPEC

The CPEC has allocated US$33 billion to 19 energy projects in Pakistan, intending to address the country’s energy crisis. However, this has raised concerns over the environmental impact of these projects, particularly those related to traditional coal-fired power plants. Approximately three-quarters of the newly planned energy will be generated from such plants located in Sindh (Thar-I and Thar-II coal power plants), Punjab (Sahiwal and Salt Range coal power plants), and Balochistan (Hub and Gwadar coal power plants) provinces. Coal-fired power plants are known to be major contributors to CO2 emissions and smog, which can cause global warming and acid rain, respectively.

Image by Google
  • ✓ Deforestation in search of better infrastructure

One of the major environmental concerns associated with the CPEC, is the extensive cutting down of trees for the construction of road networks in Pakistan. In 2017, more than 54,000 fruit and non-fruit trees were cut in districts including Abbottabad, Nowshera, Lower Dir, Swabi, Mardan, and Malakand. Trees play a crucial role in mitigating the risks of climate change by absorbing up to 50 pounds of CO2 per year. The massive deforestation has resulted in the failure to absorb seven million pounds of CO2 in these districts in 2017, which is still accumulating in the atmosphere. These districts are already facing high risks of climate change, including increased temperatures, droughts, soil erosion, untimely rains, and glacier melting, which ultimately lead to extreme flooding and other disastrous conditions.

  • ✓ Natural habitat destruction and resettlement of social sector

Another significant environmental concern associated with the CPEC is the destruction of natural habitats and the resettlement of the local population. The construction of various infrastructure projects, such as roads, dams, and power plants, has resulted in the displacement of numerous communities in Pakistan. This has caused significant disruption to their social and economic lives, as well as to the local ecosystems. In addition, the loss of natural habitats has led to the decline in the populations of various species of plants and animals, causing imbalances in the local biodiversity. Furthermore, the resettlement of the affected communities has led to the loss of traditional livelihoods, cultural heritage, and social networks, causing various social and economic issues.

  • ✓ Industrialization with unsustainable development

One of the criticisms of the CPEC is that it promotes unsustainable development and industrialization in Pakistan. The focus on industrialization through the development of various infrastructure projects, such as power plants, roads, and ports, is seen by some as prioritizing short-term economic gains over long-term environmental sustainability. The reliance on coal-based energy projects and the clearing of large areas of natural habitats for infrastructure development have raised concerns about the impact on the environment, biodiversity, and climate change. Furthermore, some argue that the economic benefits of the CPEC are not evenly distributed, with the majority of the investment going towards the development of industrial zones in Punjab and Sindh provinces, while other regions of Pakistan, such as Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, have been largely neglected.

  • ✓ Report by World Wide Fund for Nature

According to a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the development of the CPEC could have severe environmental consequences, particularly in terms of water and air pollution, as well as the loss of biodiversity. The report notes that the development of coal-fired power plants and other energy projects could lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions, while the construction of roads and other infrastructure could result in habitat fragmentation and the loss of biodiversity.

  • ✓ Vehicle traffic and deteriorating air quality

One of the environmental threats associated with CPEC in the northern areas of Pakistan is vehicle traffic. With the completion of road networks under CPEC, the Karakorum highway is expected to accommodate up to 7,000 trucks per day, emitting approximately 36.5 million tons of CO2. The resulting CO2 emissions and particulate matter will have a detrimental impact on local air quality and could contribute to climate change. According to a report by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), the transport sector is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Pakistan, accounting for approximately 16% of the total emissions. The report also highlights that the increase in vehicular traffic due to the CPEC has led to a significant deterioration in air quality, particularly in the cities of Lahore and Islamabad.

  • ✓ Environmental degradation and negatively influenced health sector

The environmental degradation due to CPEC’s infrastructure projects has negatively impacted the health sector in Pakistan. Air pollution, water contamination, and loss of natural habitats have led to a rise in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as water-borne diseases. Environmental degradation also has adverse social and economic impacts on mental health, causing stress, anxiety, and disorientation. According to the Pakistan Medical Association, air pollution is responsible for over 60,000 premature deaths annually, with urban areas being the most affected. The loss of traditional livelihoods and social networks due to the displacement of communities has also contributed to mental health issues. In 2018, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released a report titled “Impact of CPEC on the Environment and Human Health”, which discussed the potential environmental risks and impacts of the project. The report identified air and water pollution, deforestation, and climate change as the main environmental concerns associated with CPEC.

  • ✓ Risk of natural catastrophes

The construction of infrastructure projects under the CPEC has increased the risk of natural catastrophes in Pakistan. The alteration of natural drainage systems due to the construction of dams and roads has increased the risk of flooding, while deforestation has led to soil erosion and an increased risk of landslides and mudslides during heavy rainfall. The construction of dams (Diamer-Bhasha dam) also has the potential to trigger earthquakes in seismically active zones such as northern Pakistan. The increase in vehicular traffic due to the CPEC has contributed to the deterioration of roads and highways, making them more vulnerable to damage during natural disasters, which can disrupt transportation networks and hinder the delivery of aid and emergency services. These environmental risks have raised concerns about the potential impact of the CPEC on the local population and infrastructure in Pakistan.

Policy makers and future of CPEC in relation with environmental destruction

Policymakers hold a critical role in ensuring sustainable development and addressing the environmental impacts of the CPEC in Pakistan. To mitigate negative impacts, they should conduct rigorous environmental impact assessments for all proposed infrastructure projects, taking into account potential air and water quality, natural habitats, biodiversity, and natural catastrophes. Local communities and stakeholders must be consulted for their concerns and perspectives. Promoting the use of sustainable technologies and practices, such as renewable energy sources and green building practices, can help reduce the environmental footprint of projects. Policymakers should also ensure equitable distribution of benefits among vulnerable groups, and invest in social and economic programs, education, and healthcare. Balancing economic benefits with environmental protection, a comprehensive and long-term approach to infrastructure development can ensure the CPEC contributes to the well-being of both the local population and the environment.

Image by Google


In conclusion, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has had significant environmental impacts in Pakistan, ranging from air and water pollution to deforestation and natural catastrophes. These environmental impacts have also had adverse effects on the health and well-being of the local population, particularly vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and those with respiratory illnesses. To address these issues, policymakers must take a comprehensive and long-term approach to infrastructure development under the CPEC. This includes conducting rigorous environmental impact assessments, promoting sustainable technologies and practices, and ensuring equitable distribution of benefits to the local population. By doing so, they can ensure that the CPEC contributes to sustainable development in Pakistan, while also protecting the environment and the health of the local population.

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