By Stephanie McBrideThe Chinese lake forest in northern India is being converted into a food source for millions of farmers.
The project is a result of a joint investment of the World Bank and the Indian government, which hopes the land will provide a sustainable source of food for millions.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the project is set to create 10,000 jobs and increase agricultural output by 10 percent.
“This will help farmers achieve a sustainable income, sustainably produce food, and increase food security in the region,” WFP chief economist Anand Bhargava told Al Jazeera.
“The project is part of a new way of thinking about food production, which has been pioneered by the Chinese government and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the past,” he added.WFP says it is the largest land project in the world.
“Over 90 percent of the land in the Chinese lake is owned by the state, with private land and farmland being leased by the government,” the WFP said.
“This means that in a world of rapid growth, food security is increasingly important.”
By reducing land ownership, land is being transformed into a resource for future development, while increasing agricultural output,” WFO’s Food Security Executive Director Paul Ochsner said.
The land is part, or part-holdings, of the world’s largest hydropower system.
This is the water, pumped from the sea, that flows to irrigate farmland and generate power for the global economy.
According the WFS website, the lake forest is also home to some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the global food chain, including the critically endangered northern spotted owl, which feeds a vast population of Indian sheep.”
China has the potential to be a world leader in the transformation of agriculture, the management of biodiversity and its management, and in terms of environmental protection,” WFS Director-General Anastasia Khazanova said.
However, the Chinese project is not without controversy.
The World Bank has raised concerns about the potential impacts of the project, including on the environment and biodiversity, and the project’s impact on water quality and quality of life.”
It is a clear example of the Chinese leadership taking advantage of a fragile resource to pursue a commercial project, and it shows a clear disregard for the potential of the lake,” Khazova said.
While the WTF has said that the project “is being carried out as a joint venture with the government of India and a private company”, it also notes that “the government of the country of India has provided financial support for the project and has pledged to facilitate development of the site in accordance with the regulations”.”
This will ensure that the land is managed in a manner that will protect it for future generations,” the World Resources Institute (WRI) said.
Despite the concerns raised by the WRI, the project appears to be going ahead.
The Chinese government announced last month that the first phase of the forest project had been completed and that a new project would be built on the land.”
We will be investing in the forest as a food resource and also in the food supply chain,” Wang Qiyong, deputy director of the China Lake Forest Project, told Al-Jazeera.”
As we are working towards the creation of the first industrial village, we are looking forward to this as an investment to help support the local economy,” Wang said.
A Chinese official said the project would provide employment to more than 2,000 people, but that the government did not yet have a clear plan to allocate land to those employed in the project.”
They have been given a very broad range of options,” said a senior official from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.