ISLAMABAD: Once an ignored tiny indolent fishing town located at the Arabian Sea in Balochistan, Gwadar has now witnessed a wave of development projects that is opening new avenues of employment and businesses for locals and will lay a strong infrastructural foundation for the country's future.
From 2013, the deep-water port is making its new identity. It has become fully functional since late 2016. Its free zone first phase and business centre have been constructed within an astonishing six months earlier this year and embraced its first liner in March. Now, people in the remote Gwadar could also enjoy speedy 4G mobile connection to interact with the rest of the world.
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According to the port operator China Overseas Ports Holding Company (COPHC), some 20 companies in different businesses have already joined the Gwadar free zone with direct investment of 3.0 billion Chinese yuan, or some $460 million. The annual output could reach more than 5.0 billion yuan after full operation of the enterprises.
Abdul Ghaffar, owner of a grocery shop and a restaurant near Gwadar port area, enjoys the development of the port.
"Around 150 people come to my restaurant for lunch and as many for dinner. In the past, my sale was very low, but now my earning has become better and I have also extended my business. In the past, I used to open my shop and restaurant occasionally when the port opened in 2008, but now I don't close my shop because work is in progress continuously."
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Ghaffar, who came to Gwadar for a better future from Quetta in 2008, said, "I have seen a big change here. There was nothing in this area, but now several buildings have been built all around. Whenever there was rain, all ways were blocked here, but now things have changed. They (Chinese) have made a big thing from nothing."
Ghaffar is an early bird who came to Gwadar. Now, thousands of people have migrated from across the country to Gwadar to grab emerging business and employment opportunities since the launch of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Gwadar's population has increased from some 85,000 in 2007 to 138,000 currently. The amount of mobile SIM cards issued in the area also jumped from about 100,000 chips to over 200,000.
Rahab Ali Meerani is a laborer who travelled some 1,080 kilometres from Shikarpur district in southern Sindh province to work on a project in Gwadar port.
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"I came here because in our area wages are not as high as in Gwadar." He added, "Chinese companies are coming to Pakistan and starting projects which are bringing a great support to poor people. Now, the poverty is being eliminated."
"There was a lot of unemployment in Gwadar, there was only fishing work, which is not a regular job. Now people are getting a variety of jobs and they are very happy," said Muhammad Ibrahim, a worker in Gwadar, adding, "I am very happy because this area is being developed. Some people say there is no development, but actually, development is taking place."
Ibrahim has started learning the Chinese language to advance his contacts with Chinese people.
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Gwadar's local people are also feeling the development impetus triggered by the rapidly developing port, construction of new roads, laying of new sewerage lines, establishment and upgrading of educational institutions and hospitals, construction of a new airport and installation of water purification plants in Gwadar due to CPEC.
Javed Mehmood, a local fisherman whose family is in the fishing business for almost one century, highlighted several development projects in Gwadar and said that "the port has developed, roads are being constructed, a road has linked Gwadar with China. First, we had only one hospital named Civil Hospital, now another hospital has been established."
"Three people from my area now have got jobs at the port, possibly around two to three people from every area got jobs," said Mehmood, who wished that all people in Gwadar get employed.
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Liaqat Muhammad, who works in a fish preservation unit, also enjoys the development as their business has multiplied after the construction of a road linking Gwadar with Karachi, the country's southern port city.
"Now, the road infrastructure has improved and we can send fresh fish outside. The distance we covered in 24 hours in the past, can be covered in six to seven hours now," Muhammad added.
Muhammad couldn't have a chance to visit the newly constructed port area, but he has watched many videos related to the port development and activities.
"A lot of development works are taking place here. Imports and exports are in progress at the port, expo centre has started. I have not visited the port yet, but I have seen the development through videos on my mobile," said Muhammad.
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"In one or two years, our fish containers will be exported from the Gwadar port."
Availability of the potable water is a common issue in Gwadar, and almost every person, whom Xinhua talked to, pinned his hope on China to solve their water issue. And the COPHC has signed a contract with the Balochistan government to provide clean drinking water to Gwadar.
Zulfiqar Bajwa, a tourist who came to Gwadar with his family from Karachi, told Xinhua, "I have come here to see the port because international focus is on it. As we have seen it, it will be one of the biggest ports in the world."
"The future of our generations depends on it (Gwadar). When it will be completed, Pakistan's status will increase in the world. It will bring great benefits to the Pakistani nation through industrialisation," said Bajwa.
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