ISLAMABAD: A beautiful view from the Gwadar PC showing the arch of the East Bay of Gwadar to catch a photographer’s eye displays the contrast between the New Gwadar Port and the adjoining shanty town that has been there for centuries.
With my mother tongue as Balochi, I had an advantage to visit the fish harbour and speak to the fisher-folk to hear their views regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), perhaps a game changer for the country.
The fishermen did not express much hope, but rather their concern was their rehabilitation at a new location after being uprooted from their present locality as the new location may lack the necessary infrastructure to maintain their livelihood from the fishing business that they only know.
A seminar organised by the Gwadar Chamber of Commerce was quite conspicuous with the presence of the minister for port and shipping and the federal planning minister. The port and shipping minister, a senator from Balochistan, surrendered the rostrum to the planning minister who spoke on the occasion.
Since the obsession of roads and motorways persists with the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, its party members and ministers profusely advocate the contention to toe the line of their leader. Most of the emphasis was on roads and motorways, but nothing was said about a plan or a road map of how to improve the livelihood of the population of Gwadar, or if there was any such plan in the offing.
Nonetheless, there was no mention of how Balochistan and its people would benefit from the fruits of CPEC. It was told that 35% of the funds would be earmarked for the power sector. Great, but most of the grids in Balochistan are already overloaded and even when the power is available (wishful thinking), there is no infrastructure to transmit it, how then will Balochistan benefit?
The Board of Investment of Balochistan has remained dormant since a controversial appointment.
Lack of emphasis
The seminar was an opportunity for the Gwadar Chamber to place before the federal minister justified demands not only for Gwadar, but also for Balochistan as a whole.
But the speeches ended with all praise and no emphasis on the important aspects that could bring a turnaround to the most dilapidated, largest and most backward province of the country.
Either out of selfishness, ignorance or incapacity or all three of these, the government of Balochistan and those at the helm of affairs lost this last opportunity from CPEC to bring in investment in the province to become a source of livelihood for its people.
Of the $46 billion funded by the Chinese government, only $7 billion is being invested in Balochistan in the following manner according to the information from the Planning Commission’s CPEC website.
- New Gwadar International Airport, which benefits mainly CPEC and partly Balochistan
- Gwadar-Turbat-Hoshab section of Gwadar-Rathodero Road (892 km), which is the need of CPEC
- Widening and improvement of N-85 Hoshab-Nag-Basima, Surab Road (459 km), which is the need of CPEC
- Water treatment, supply and distribution, which is the need of CPEC and partly locals
- Establishment of CPEC Support Unit for projects and activities in Gwadar Port Authority, which benefits CPEC
- Feasibility study for the construction of break waters, which is the need of CPEC and Gwadar Port
- Infrastructure development for EPZA and GIEDA, which benefits Gwadar Port
- Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute at Gwadar, which benefits Balochistan
- Up-gradation of existing 50-bed hospital to 300 beds in Gwadar, which benefits Balochistan and locals
- Connecting Gwadar with Karachi by rail, which benefits only CPEC
- 300MW coal-fired power plant at Gwadar, which gives no benefit to Balochistan that lacks infrastructure
Following investment opportunities and development prospects are available in Balochistan, but these are being neglected or avoided.
- Mineral mapping of the province needs to be undertaken.
- There are seven wind corridors in Balochistan, which are at least 60% better than those of Gharo in Sindh, but none are being developed as wind farms. (Source: NASA Wind Map)
- Potential for solar energy throughout the northern belt of Balochistan from Taftan to Zhob. (Source: NASA Solar Map)
- Potential for geo-thermal energy near Naukundi. (Self-discovery)
- Potential for development of coastal fish wealth and support to the local fishermen within 750 km of the coastline to produce quality catch and quality fish for export.
- Potential for development of date farms and processing of date as syrup, etc in Makran.
- Potential for fruit canning and dehydrated agriculture products for the local and international markets.
- Mineral mining and value added upgrading of minerals for export.
- Roads from mines and agriculture farmlands linked with the main highways.
- Upgrading of existing grid stations in Balochistan.
- Development and control of wildlife.
- Subsidies and technical support to farmers for agriculture and livestock.
- And many more.
Bestial bragging of the federal and provincial governments should stop forthwith. The provincial government of Balochistan should seek the help of experts from various universities of the province, who are restricted within the boundaries of their universities to hold seminars, etc, but their proposals and recommendations are dumped.
It is surprising to note that the Chinese are more concerned than the federal or provincial governments.
It is, therefore, an obligation of the federal government to revisit its plans and recommendations and for the Balochistan government to avail itself of this one-time opportunity from CPEC.
Progress in Balochistan will only be seen if a major portion of CPEC funding was invested in the above projects to bring the province if not at par, but close to other provinces of the country in terms of development.
The writer is the former project director and deputy managing director of Saindak Copper and Gold Project, Chagai district, Balochistan
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2017.