KCCDZ: Expanding maritime component of CPEC
IT is heartening to note that maritime cooperation is increasingly emerging as an important component of Pak-China relations in general and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in particular. Initiation of Karachi Comprehensive Coastal Development Zone (KCCDZ) is indeed a major boost in this connection which will further expand the maritime component of CPEC to boost the economy of Pakistan.
It is now a well-known fact that CPEC is moving ahead as a multidimensional flagship project of China’s mega Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The initial MoU of this mega project was signed in July 2013. However, the fast execution of CPEC began in April 2015 after the visit of the President of China, Xi Jinping to Pakistan. CPEC is a long-run well-grounded project designed to build stronger cooperation and connectivity not only between Pakistan and China for mutual benefits, but it lays the foundation for broad-based connectivity and cooperation amongst the regions of Central, West, and South Asia.
The maritime component of CPEC is of vital importance for both countries. The Gwadar Port being developed as part of the CPEC project will improve connectivity not only in Pakistan and China but would also serve the same purpose for all the countries located in the region. The first phase of the Gwadar port has been completed successfully under CPEC early harvest projects; the port is operational now. However, it is not operating at its optimum capacity. And now the second development phase is in progress. Yet, it would not be wrong to say that Gwadar port is still a long way from its potential.
However, the inclusion of the Karachi Comprehensive Coastal Development Zone (KCCDZ) under CPEC in the 10th Joint Cooperation Committee on 23 September 2021 comes as a much-awaited and key expansion of the maritime component under CPEC. An MoU was signed between the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) in this context. The MoU aimed to resolve infrastructure issues in Karachi city along with the development of the maritime sector in a holistic way, with a major focus on the provision of job opportunities based on technology transfer to the maritime industry of Pakistan to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG9 &11).
The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan applauded this great initiative taken by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs (MoMA) for the inclusion of KCCDZ under CPEC and called it a ‘Game Changer’ for Pakistan. Some animated images of a developed KCCDZ displaying a vast coastline of Pakistan (more than 1000km) dotted with compound buildings were also shared on different media channels. The whole advanced development will take place over the “reclaimed area of KPT ” covering over 640 hectares (1581.474 acres). The project is expected to complete in not more than five to six years considering the Chinese work efficiency.
According to some media sources, this ‘game changer’ project with a $3.5 billion investment from China will include four new berths in Karachi Port Trust (KPT), a new fishery port and a grand harbour bridge connecting the Manora Island and the Sandspit Beach in Karachi.
This KCCDZ on completion will help Pakistan to capitalize on its vast potential of Blue Economy, more so for this main port city is said to be having a population of 25 million, even more. The project is considered to help in cleaning Pakistan’s maritime habitat for fishermen communities and will present new opportunities for investors, resulting in the multiplication of livelihoods. New 20,000 low-income housing units will also be developed under this project. Moreover, it also focused on the ultramodern infrastructure zone in Karachi city, turning it into among the top global cities.
Once KCCDZ will be fully developed, Blue Economy would become an even more important sector within Pakistan’s economy by enhancing sea trade, infrastructure development, growth in the fisheries sector, amazing opportunities for investors and employment for the city’s dwellers. It will further enhance development and industrial cooperation between the two countries.
The ongoing challenges being faced by different ports around the world necessitate that countries like Pakistan must upgrade their port infrastructures. KCCDZ would serve the purpose when it becomes fully operational. In future years, when the upgraded Karachi port on the eastern corner of Pakistan’s coast and a functional Gwadar port on the western corner of the same coast start to complement each other, the country would strengthen its position as an important maritime player in the region. Pakistan and China should both prioritize this project to be executed and completed in the shortest possible time.