Kazakhstan government publishes list of 55 projects with Chinese investments

Author: Eugene Simonov, China Dialogue, Published on: 30 October 2019

“Half China’s investment in Kazakhstan is in oil and gas”, 29 October 2019

The Kazakhstan government has finally published a list of the 55 projects its neighbour China has invested in. About half of the investment total of US$27.6 billion is in oil and gas projects…

… Since at least 2015, international policy experts and environmental activists have been requesting the list be made public. They were told the projects were too commercially sensitive to be disclosed. In response, they argued that more information would help answer public questions about Belt and Road projects and counter the growth of anti-China sentiment in Kazakhstan…

In 2016, the lack of public participation in decisions relating to the agricultural sector led to mass protests against “selling farmland to foreigners”. Ultimately, the government was forced to delay (until 2021) amendments to the Land Code that would allow foreigners to rent land for up to 25 years rather than 10. Despite this warning, the project list was not made public at the time…

In September, as a new wave of anti-Chinese protests rolled through Kazakh cities with the slogan “Cancel 55 Chinese Projects!”, two non-governmental organisations, Kazakhstan EcoForum and Crude Accountability, again asked the government to publish the list. This time it complied.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also gave assurance that “all projects of industrial cooperation included in the List are subject to environmental impact assessment by the State”.

EcoForum chairman Vadim Nee said that, according to the Aarhus Convention and Kazakh law, this will require holding public consultations on each project. He welcomed the government’s commitment to proper public participation and openness…

Approximately half of the investments are in oil and gas, while the rest are in mining and ore processing, machine manufacturing, energy and food production…

On the bright side, most of the planned energy projects are in wind and solar farms… The projects list could be much greener, but is better than the rumours spread about it.

“The more public information we have on this cooperation, the less room is left for rumours and fears,” commented Sergey Solyanik, a consultant at environmental organisation Crude Accountability.

“We expect that the Chinese enterprises will adhere to similar openness disclosing social and environmental impacts of planned activities as required by the law… China is our close neighbour and trade partner and we need to develop dialogue on environmental impacts and sustainable development.”…

However, uncertainty remains about when and how Chinese companies will disclose the social and environmental impacts of specific projects.

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