THANKS to the active and comprehensive cooperation of China, Pakistan’s dream of unleashing the full potential of the strategic port of Gwadar is becoming a reality as a number of projects aimed at achieving this cherished objective are nearing completion.
Talking to the media here after reviewing the Gwadar Port and other projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Initiative, Chairman of the CPEC Authority Lt.Gen (Retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa highlighted that after becoming fully operational, the Gwadar Port and Gwadar Free Zone would generate economic activities of around $10 billion per annum.
The details provided by General Asim Saleem Bajwa spark confidence that all projects and activities related to the port and other connected projects are progressing well and would be completed soon.
It is heartening that the port’s infrastructural work had been completed by the China Port Holding Company at the cost of around $300 million, and its all four berths were now fully operational.
Already, cargo ships including those under Afghan Transit Trade Agreement are handled at the port and now efforts are focused at increasing the port traffic for which logistic companies are being persuaded to establish their offices in the city.
As regards the Gwadar Port Free Zone, its first phase spreading over 60 acres of land had already been completed, with 47 enterprises registered while Prime Minister Imran Khan would perform ground-breaking of the second phase of the Zone spread over 2,221 acres of land.
Port’s connectivity with the rest of the country and the region was the main stumbling block in the way of full exploitation of its potential and in this backdrop, it augurs well that about 94% of the work on Eastbay Expressway, which would directly take the cargo from port to M-8 for onward shipment to Karachi and the rest of the country, has been completed and the entire project would be accomplished during the next three/four months.
Chinese investors have started flocking to the region to set up factories and businesses in different sectors of the economy that would not only improve the lot of the local people and Balochistan but also have a positive impact on the overall economy of the country.
Gwadar is strategically located to connect three regions – South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle-East and way back in 1954 the Geological Survey of the United States published a report on the coastal line of Pakistan identifying Gwadar as an appropriate site for building a seaport without much financial cost.
Regrettably, we did only politics and missed several opportunities to develop this vital seaport and it was only with the Chinese assistance that the project took a concrete shape.
Then again, the port remained almost non-operational for years despite completion of its first phase in 2006 mainly due to lack of proper planning, commitment and resources.
This aspect was taken care of when Chinese included a number of projects for all round development of Gwadar under the economic corridor.
Though full exploitation of the potential of the port is deeply linked to these, under implementation, projects but there are also clear signs of improvement in socio-economic conditions of the local population due to increased economic and employment opportunities, establishment of educational institutions including professional and technical training, world-class infrastructure, increased mobility due to improved road network and, above all, setting up of factories and companies.
All this scuttles the negative propaganda by some vested interests that tried to hamper the developmental activities in Gwadar on different pretexts.
Gwadar was a backward region (despite its strategic location) as far as civic facilities, living conditions, agriculture and industrial activities were concerned but now its entire landscape is changing for the better.
Apart from projects that would accelerate the pace of industrial and business activities in Gwadar, the authorities are also working on several other aspects that would go a long way in transforming the lot of the local people.
Talks were underway with six Chinese companies to sign lease agreements for 32,500 acres of land, on which they would develop a unique model of corporate farming on the pattern of similar farms being executed in KP and Sindh.
The potential for progress and prosperity is enormous but it all depends on expeditious implementation of all projects and proper marketing of its potential.
Experts say completion of the desired infrastructure, facilities and services would make Gwadar a port of choice for transhipment of cargo to and from a number of countries as it is the shortest and most feasible route to sea for Afghanistan, most of Central Asian countries and for parts of Russia especially during winter when most of the ports are closed. It all means any investment on Gwadar is worth making.