An article by Crude Accountability titled “The Middle Corridor: Repeating Colonial Practices of Prioritizing Profit Over People in Central Asia” brings attention to various concerns linked to the Middle Corridor investment project.
The Middle Corridor is an investment initiative aimed at developing natural resource extraction and the associated infrastructure, including ports and pipelines. The goal is to facilitate the supply of oil, natural gas, uranium, and other materials from Central Asia to the West while circumventing Russia, while also enhancing trade between China and the European Union. The primary routes connect Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, potentially involving Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Another route connects Georgia and Turkey, linking the West through the Black or Mediterranean seas, as depicted in Featured Image.
The project is under active planning, funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Tax and Investment Center. Additional $25 million investment by the US in Central Asia is possibly linked to the project. The project is heavily promoted by the governments of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
Concerns about the environmental impact of such projects have historic roots. The region has a history of natural resource exploitation by the Soviet Union with no regard to environmental or societal impacts. A series of disasters such as the Aral Sea, the nuclear testing site in Kazakhstan, the uranium mining in the Ferghana Valley, left lasting environmental problems, affecting the health of local communities. Since the 1990s Western investments in raw material extraction have also been surrounded by controversies and environmental negligence due to emergencies like pollution, food and water contamination, and biodiversity threats.
Given this history, there are concerns that the Middle Corridor may perpetuate these detrimental practices. The region is still suffering from environmental problems, and the new project could worsen the situation. Crude Accountability points out the lack of plans to mitigate the environmental impacts and that the project’s impacts on climate commitments and the lives of local populations are not taken into account. It highlights the potential environmental and societal threats posed to Central Asia by increased resource exploitation, trade facilitation with China, and power politics.
Image source: SWP, 2022