The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) includes projects ranging from western China to the southern tip of Pakistan. Energy projects account for more than 60 percent of CPEC’s roughly $62 billion in investment. Of these projects, about 70 percent of their planned energy capacity will be generated by coal-fired power plants. The rest is hydro (20 percent), solar (7 percent), and wind (3 percent). Pakistan’s energy needs are great, and its government aims to increase access to electricity from 67 to 90 percent of the population by 2025. However, decisions about increased energy output also need to be carefully weighed against potential environmental risks, including potential impacts on local protected species.
Below, a geographic analysis suggests that CPEC power plants have the potential to greatly increase access to electricity for Pakistan’s population, but they could also pose serious risks to surrounding wildlife, including some endangered species. Specifically, three coal-fired power plants and three hydro power plants are situated within 10 kilometers of UN-designated protected areas for local wildlife (the distance commonly used when conducting environmental impact assessments). Deeper analysis and on-the-ground evaluations could help balance Pakistan’s energy needs while protecting local wildlife.
Eunji Oh is a former researcher with the Reconnecting Asia Project.