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Opinion
Peer-Review Record

Dark Clouds over the Silk Road: Challenges Facing Mountain Environments in Central Asia

Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9467; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229467
by 1,2,3
Reviewer 1: Sara Jackson
Reviewer 2: Anonymous
Reviewer 3: Anonymous
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9467; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229467
Received: 24 September 2020 / Revised: 6 November 2020 / Accepted: 7 November 2020 / Published: 13 November 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Catastrophes)

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

The paper provides a good overview of some of the major environmental and social hazards associated with BRI road building efforts. The author expresses a clear concern for people in the region who are experiencing negative impacts from road infrastructure. As this is an opinion piece, I recognize that the need for evidence to support major claims is less of a focus than for a research article. Here are a couple of items that would strengthen this essay:

  1. The introduction focuses largely on Europe's experience of the silk road, in particular in reference to Marco Polo and the plague. More Central Asian content would be appropriate including how the Silk Road was connected to political and economic regional powers at the time.
  2. Including a map would at least show readers who are not familiar with the region some geographical context.
  3. Include source for images on page 3.
  4. Are all Central Asian countries the same? How do we know what happens in China's western regions is the same as in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan etc.? Are the political processes that make the roads possible varied?
  5. Are there EIA processes? Surely EBRD, WB, and other entities in the region have had some involvement in developing those processes.
  6. Lines 138-160: The author's expertise is evident in citations 32 and 33. Are the issues mentioned in this section evident in one or more Central Asian country? Or are these just problems associated with road building?
  7. Do countries in Central Asia have the power to contest China's actions? For example, Kazakhstan is much more powerful for a variety of reasons than Kyrgyzstan. Doesn't this matter?
  8. Why not end with a verse from a Central Asian song or poem?

Again, I recognize that this is an opinion piece and the paper cannot go into detail on the political variations of the region. However, it is also important to not treat region as a monolith. The varied agency of governments, as well as  influences from Russia and international development agencies, are relevant.

Author Response

see attached file

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Reviewer 2 Report

The paper is a clear-sighted and much-needed analysis of the environmental hazards and developmental issues generated by the construction of transport links in Central Asia as part of China's Belt and Road Initiative. The author identifies the need for better planning and sustainability studies in constructing roads supposedly intended to create economic synergies between China and Central Asian countries. Research on this topic to date has been sparse: this paper therefore represents a valuable contribution to the understanding of the environmental impacts and sustainable development of the BRI in the region. The manuscript merits publication as is, with no need for changes beyond a light final proofreading to eliminate one or two typographical errors.

Author Response

see attached file

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Reviewer 3 Report

Dear Author,

the paper titled: Dark Clouds over the Silk Road: Challenges Facing Mountain Environments in Central Asia informs the reader about the socioeconomic and environmental effects of the Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia. In particular, the paper is focused on the consequences induced
by the construction of new roads in remote and often uncontaminated areas that cause natural hazards such as landslides. This is an extremely interesting topic, given the magnitude of the project and the diversity of risks.

Unfortunately, the assertions are not supported by data from scientific research. I am convinced that an opinion paper in a scientific journal should
be always supported by facts and figures.

Here are some comments.
- section 4: Please try to support your thesis with numbers and researches. A description of the
effects produced by roads on slopes is here reported but no demonstrations about the increase of geological events related to the BRI construction are given.
- 177-82/16-119/130-137: please, try to add more details to this assertion, add scientific support, and give some numbers.


Minor comments
- row 60: Please use one definition of the BRI ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ or ‘One Belt One Road’
- row 70: Please try to find a more representative/descriptive figure of the paragraph
- Figure 1: Please increase the dimension of Fig 1b. Fig 1f is not clear
- row 77: Please try to figure the two tracks of the old and new silk road and add an image of the
area studied
- row 92-96: Please try to expand this paragraph with examples and details

Best regards

Comments for author File: Comments.pdf

Author Response

see attached file

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Round 2

Reviewer 1 Report

I appreciate all of the work the author put into making the suggested changes and for their very thoughtful reply. I do not have any further comments.

Author Response

Thank you very much for your kind remarks.  Roy Sidle

Reviewer 3 Report

The comments provided during the first review have been followed and the paper is now more consistent and focused on specific themes and study area.

However, the first comment still requires more details.

Regarding the regions Pamirs, Pamir-Alay Range and Tien Shen, I would understand more clearly the increase in frequency/magnitude of the landslides in those regions, for example by a comparison between and after the road construction/upgrade.

Moreover, I would like to be informed about how China's funds have been used in those regions. We are talking about BRI effect on natural hazards frequency/magnitude, but I cannot distinguish if the increase in frequency/magnitude of landslides in Pamirs, Pamir-Alay Range and Tien Shen is due to road constructions (in general) or by the road construction/upgrade which is planned by the BRI.

Best regards

 

Author Response

Please see attached file

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

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