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Paw Tracker newsletter (Week of Oct 25)


In the past week, Chinese overseas hydropower sector, often a source of controversy in host countries, reported new deals, major milestones and record-breaking output. The sector will likely remain a large portion of the BRI’s energy footprint. In fact, according to the Green BRI Center at IIGF, hydropower is taking up a larger share of the BRI investment cake in the bleak year of 2020, when overall investment tanked. Possibly in keeping with the “new normal” of the Belt and Road after Covid-19, there are signs that Chinese leaders and scholars are shifting to a new narrative of delivering “public goods” through the initiative, rather than the hard infrastructure focused narrative of previous years.
The Paw Tracker newsletter, developed by Panda Paw Dragon Claw, provides up-to-date and granular project-level information on the Belt and Road Initiative. Drawing from Chinese sources of information that are often disjointed and difficult to access, the newsletter also aims to become a convening space for watchers of the BRI to share and cross-check information about projects and their impacts on the ground. 

This week's highlight projects


Bolivia: Construction of Ivirizu Dam enters critical stage

On Oct 15, Power China announced on its website that diversion of the Ivirizu River has been completed, allowing the construction of the main dam to begin.

The successful water diversion (through a diversion channel constructed earlier) marks the fulfilment of the second milestone in the contract for building the 280MW Ivirizu Dam, said the Power China web post. Sinohydro, the Chinese hydropower construction contractor building the dam, is a subsidiary of Power China.

The controversial project is located inside the Carrasco National Park, a highly biodiverse area. It was approved by the Bolivian government as a project "in the national interest" but has since then been shrouded in controversies over deforestation and mitigation of the construction's impact.
 

Cambodia: Country's first major hydropower project achieved record electricity output

Cambodia's Kamchay dam, the country's first major hydropower dam, inaugurated in 2011, registered a record 4,771,100 kwh of power generation on Oct 19. The record was achieved after 9 months of drought before October this year. With "close coordination with Cambodia's national electricity dispatch authority", the operator took advantage of major weather events that dramatically pushed up water levels in the Kampot region where the dam is located.

The 193 MW Kamchay hydropower dam was constructed by Sinohydro under a 44-year Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contract. Unlike an Engineer-Procurement-Construction (EPC) contract arrangement where the company's involvement ends at the completion and handover of the project, the BOT nature of the deal embeds the Chinese company more deeply inside the Cambodian power system as operator of the country's first major dam project. In 2015, for example, company representatives had to respond to allegations that its operation caused widespread flooding in Kampot province. 

Other project & corporate updates


Pakistan: Lahore's “orange line” opens for business

“Pakistan has entered the ‘metro’ era,” a Lahore resident told People’s Daily at the opening of the country’s first ever metro line on Oct 25. The project also represents the first major urban rail transit project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), jointly built by China Railway and China North Industries Corp (CNIC) with a contract worth 1.6 billion USD. CNIC and the Guangzhou Metro Group will jointly operate the metro line with Pakistan’s DW consortium for another 8 years. Export of rail transit systems and technologies has been a main theme of the Belt and Road Initiative given how it helps upgrade Chinese export from manufactured products to entire systems and standards.
 

Power China: New contracts for overseas projects expanded by 27% in first three quarters of 2020

Despite the apparent headwinds of Covid-19 and its economic impacts, Power China reported a substantial growth in the value of new contracts signed in the first three quarters of 2020 compared to the same period last year. The total value of the contracts reached 132 billion RMB. The new contracts contain a noticeably large proportion of renewables and hydropower projects. Of the total 39 project contracts, 22 were energy related, 7 of which were in solar, 5 in wind, and 7 in hydropower.

If you have further details of any of the above mentioned projects that you would like to share with the community, please reach out to us through pandapawdragonclaw@gmail.com

Talk of the Town


China should deliver more "public goods" through the Belt and Road Initiative. This is the argument made by scholar Yang Da on the Party's Guangming Daily last week. The opinion piece reflects the post-Covid change of emphasis for China's flagship international development program. As Yang, Professor of Public Administration at Guizhou University, suggests, public health and environmental governance are two areas where China can make a contribution in countries participating in the BRI. It can enhance support of countries where public health systems are underdeveloped, particularly in South Asia and Southeast Asia. The article cites China's initiation of the "10+3" (ASEAN-China-Japan-Korean) leaders conference on combating Covid-19 and its pledge to use grants and commercial financing to help boost Southeast Asian public health systems as examples of how China may advance a more public interest oriented agenda in the region. It also advocates leveraging the Lancang-Mekong Mechanism to build synergy in regional cooperation on "building a healthy silk road". 

Those concrete recommendations, including building up emergency healthcare equipment inventories in the 10+3 countries, appear to build on President Xi Jinping's "Health Silk Road" vision, first proposed in 2017 but elevated to new heights in March 2020 when the epidemic turned global. Paw Tracker expects that we will likely hear more of this "public good" BRI in the coming months as the pandemic completely changes global conversations about development.

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