Fabien Baussart
Fabien Baussart

China’s BRI in Turkey: Major environment damages

The coal-fired Hunutlu Thermal Plant in Turkey, which is a part of China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI), has met with stiff opposition from environmentalists. The project is said to be detrimental to the environment and violates the pledge to develop “green” BRI by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

  1. There have been campaigns by non-profits as well as online groups against the power plant which they say will lead to an estimated additional 2,000 premature deaths in Turkey’s Adana as the coal-fired thermal power station will have a negative impact on human health, biodiversity, agricultural production and climate. They said the power generation using imported coal will not help local communities but rather they will bear the brunt.
  2. Now, a group of over 20 international non-governmental organisations have demanded China stop financing the project. China Development Bank, Bank of China, and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China have extended financial support to the power project that will generate 1,320 MW of electricity.
  3. “In light of community opposition to the project, as well as the lack of legal compliance, we respectfully ask that the financiers of the Emba Hunutlu coal plant withdraw all financial support from the project,” the group said. “We believe that the cumulative biodiversity, environmental, air pollution, climate, and policy alignment issues raise serious red flags about your institution’s involvement in this project.”
  4.  Also, the power plant will release wastewater in the sea, which will have a temperature 7 degrees Celsius higher than the seawater. This will lead the seawater temperature to exceed 35 degrees Celsius, thus becoming fatal for marine biodiversity especially Loggerhead Sea turtles and Green Seaturtles—both classified as endangered by IUCN.
  5. The Sugözü Beach, where coal-fired Hunutlu thermal power stations and ancillary projects like silos, port, wastewater treatment plants will be built, is one of the most important spawning grounds for sea turtles in Turkey.
  6. Turkey has received USD 1.38 billion loan from the three Chinese banks to build the project.
  7. The power plant is constructed by EMBA, Electricity Production, in which China holds 78 percent stakes.
  8. A report by WWF and Sustainable Economics and Finance Association (SEFiA) claimed the project can become financially unviable owing to the high cost involved in the import of coal. The detailed analysis showed the average electricity generation cost using imported coal and Chinese equipment will be USD 50 /MWh while the gross revenue per MWh will be USD 18.77. “It would therefore be appropriate to question the political economy of the Hunutlu Thermal Power Plant, which is being built as China’s largest-ever direct investment in Turkey, despite its critical condition in terms of the financial return of the investment,” the report warned.
  9.  This can make repayment of Chinese loan difficult for Turkey.
    Banktrack, an international organisation working on the promotion of sustainability has opposed the Hunutle power plant. “The Paris Climate Agreement goals require a managed decline of fossil fuel production. The construction of new coal-fired power plants is not compatible with this goal,”it said.
  10. Despite calls for sustainable and green investment, China is alleged to be leading in financing coal-fired plants globally. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said China has extended its support to over 25 percent of all coal plants being built across the globe. “Financing mainly comes from Chinese policy banks and state-owned commercial banks, with Chinese SOEs (State-owned enterprise) acting not just as construction contractors but as co-managers and owners…These projects threaten to lock the host countries into costly, high-carbon infrastructure precisely at a time when clean energy costs from solar and wind power are falling below that of coal power. The projects are also misaligned with the green commitments the countries have made under the international Paris Agreement on climate change,” it said.
  11. Now, protests are held against the Hunutlu power plant in Turkey. Ten environmental groups including WWF Turkey and CAN Europe have started a campaign called “Fresh air for Adana” (#AdanayaTemizHava), asking the Turkey government to shut down the plant. They said the construction for the China-led power plant began without a health impact review and a cumulative air pollution modelling. Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) said the BRI “perpetuates a carbon- and pollution-intensive model” rather than helping the country wean itself from its dependence on heavy industry .
About the Author
Fabien Baussart is the President of CPFA (Center of Political and Foreign Affairs)
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