GWADAR: Pakistan has embarked on a path of economic development and progress with the planned injection of over $50 billion worth of Chinese investment into projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Of these projects, a major scheme is the transformation of Gwadar port into a top port of the world as well as the development of Gwadar city and wellbeing of its natives.
However, almost all the natives and many industrialists, businessmen, overseas Pakistanis and people from different walks of life view the projects with suspicion as they do not have trust in the federal and provincial governments. They make queries about their survival under the CPEC programme.
A visit to the Gwadar port and the city area and meetings with the authorities concerned last week suggests that the projects are not only on papers and development work has been fast-paced. These projects will not push the natives to the wall, rather, they are designed in such a way that they will provide increased opportunities of participation for the locals.
According to the authorities, the atmosphere of mistrust is a product of lack of communication between the government officials working on the projects and the people connected directly or indirectly.
The government needs to disseminate accurate information about the projects and explain their advantages and disadvantages, if any. Most importantly, it ought to step up work on the projects that are envisaged for the wellbeing of the natives.
Important projects include a drinking water scheme under which a desalination plant of five million gallons per day will be set up that will make underground and seawater drinkable. Another scheme is about laying a pipeline from the Swad Dam and Shadi Kour Dam to the main city.
However, these projects are still at an early stage. The citizens of Gwadar face acute scarcity of drinking water as it has not rained there for the last three years. They are satisfying more than half of their needs through the water supplied by tankers from Karachi and bottled water supplies from Iran at a hefty cost.
At the same time, this challenge provides a chance for local businessmen to set up reverse osmosis (desalination) plants in the area that will prove a win-win situation for both the businessmen and area residents. It will at least reduce the cost of water.
It cannot be denied that development will not take place in a short span of time. It may take 5 to 10 years to start delivering the desired results. So, the authorities advocate patience and the need to focus on the emerging opportunities.
An official of the Gwadar Industrial Estate Development Authority says they have earmarked a dedicated area for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the estate.
The SMEs will be established under one roof to meet the longstanding demand of the businessmen, who will buy or rent shops and workshops. The dedicated business area will have labour available at its doorsteps and cargo vehicles can be shared to reduce the transportation cost.
“This will be an opportunity area for the residents and businessmen with a small amount of money,” he said.
Interestingly, part of the Gwadar population of 120,000 believes that a bright future is awaiting them. They demand a steady flow of information and clarity on CPEC, which is their right.
The deep-sea port is being constructed at a fast pace. Three berths are working and have the capacity to host mother (larger) ships. Storage areas for containers, bulk and dirty cargo are under construction. Terminals for handling the import of re-gasified liquefied natural gas and an oil city are also part of CPEC.
Scores of foreign and domestic investors have expressed great interest in the Chinese-led Free Economic Zone and the industrial zone under local authorities.
Law and order situation is now under control, at least in Gwadar, if not across Balochistan. The army, navy and Frontier Corps have deployed thousands of troops to ensure peace and promote the business environment.
To meet its energy needs, Gwadar is currently importing 100 megawatts of electricity from Iran, which is going to be doubled to 200 megawatts soon. In addition to this, work on a 300-megawatt coal-fired plant and other power projects have been initiated.
The writer is a staff correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2017.