Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Mega-Banks Unleash an Infrastructure Tsunami

By William Laurance

The rise of investment bank lending for infrastructure projects in developing countries is driving a “feeding frenzy” of developments with lower environmental controls.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

“If we don’t do it, a Chinese corporation will – and they’ll make a horrible mess of things.”

That is a direct quote from a biologist working for an environmental non-government organisation (NGO) in Cambodia. The German Development Bank had come to the NGO with a proposal to fund a paved road that would slice through the heart of the one of the most important protected areas in the country. They wanted the NGO to help them design the road in a way that would limit its environmental impacts.

Virtually nobody in the NGO wanted to see the road go ahead. Far too often, such roads open a Pandora’s Box of environmental problems, such as promoting illegal deforestation, habitat fragmentation, poaching, fires and mining. There are few ways that one can “design” their way around such basic problems.

But the alternative nightmare scenario for the NGO was that if they didn’t help the German bank do it, someone far less environmentally concerned would be more than happy to do so.

This, increasingly, seems to be the logic behind a lot of big infrastructure and development projects. And it’s a scary proposition because we are living in the most explosive era of infrastructure expansion in human history.

For example, during their 2014 summit in Australia, the G20 nations argued for US$60–70 trillion in new infrastructure investments by 2030....

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.