We live in an age of what might be termed 'extreme infrastructure', and 'Mega-corridors' are its most visible manifestation. A new study by Counter Balance calls attention on this pervading global agenda and identifies the risks associated with it.

While infrastructure corridors are not new, their expansion has now reached an unimagined extreme scale. New roads, railways, inter-basin water transfers, ports, pipelines, industrial zones and urban growth are now designed to be all part of larger plans that extend across the globe.

The objective? To create 'capital-friendly' tradescapes that enable extreme extraction and production. The means? The promotion of extreme finance practices and extreme top-down politics that serve this trans-continental agenda.

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This new study presents the thick net of currently planned mega-corridors across different continents, with a specific focus on a set of corridors crossing Central (the so-called CAREC corridor).

Furthermore, it explores the economic and power mechanisms that drive this re-engineered model of economic geography. Indeed, mega-corridors cluster multiple economic activities and concentrate them geographically in order to enhance the competitive advantage of some industries, fostering a model that aims at maximising profits through the agglomeration of cheap labour, consumers and investments.

But such plans entail numerous social and environmental risks, the study highlights. The profoundly undemocratic nature of this new agenda is highly likely to neglect the needs of the people who find themselves on the mega-corridors trajectory and will rather deepen the inequality divide than tackle it.

While citizens’ protests have begun to arise in India, Greece, China – where mega-corridors plans have inevitably brought clashes over land and other resources – the report calls on civil society groups to join the resistance against such extreme infrastructure plans.

Nicholas Hildyard, author of the study said:

“The global infrastructure agenda is a trajectory that is fraught with vulnerabilities, not only due to resistance from those whose livelihoods do not depend on just-in-time delivery, but also because the extreme finance on which the project depends is currently struggling to entice the sums required. As such, the financing of 'extreme infrastructure' is a potent arena of struggle.”

Xavier Sol, Director of Counter Balance said:

“This study represents a step forward in challenging this new wave of mega-corridors and extractivism. The scale of potential impacts of mega-corridors makes it necessary to create linkages between different social movements and build alternative visions and approaches.”

2017 Mega Corridors title page

How infrastructure is shaping the world

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