Against the backdrop of unprecedented inflation and rising unemployment, the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project has assumed immense significance. It promises to attract investors and create numerous employment opportunities. The signing of this monumental project exemplifies the enduring friendship between Pakistan and China, heralding the dawn of a new era of development in Pakistan.
The port city of Gwadar is poised to become the focal point of future business activities. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the local population is engaged in the fishing industry, with the remaining 20 to 30 percent involved in border trade. Over the past decade, the joint venture between Pakistan and China has brought remarkable transformations to Gwadar, elevating it from a humble village into a thriving, modern city. Mr. YO BO, Chairman of China Overseas Port Holding Company, attested to this extraordinary evolution.
Mr. YO BO highlighted China’s substantial investments in Gwadar’s growth, including the construction of the airport, healthcare facilities, and other infrastructure. The Gwadar Free Zone, which came under the auspices of the Free Zone Company in 2018, has already established a vibrant phase one, spanning over 25 hectares adjacent to the port and attracting six companies to launch their businesses.
The Gwadar port is fully operational and equipped to manage both imports and exports. According to official data, from 2022 to June 14, 2023, around 637,124 metric tons of cargo have landed in Gwadar. Sharif Ibrahim, a resident of Gwadar city, mentioned that the government inaugurated the Mand-Pishin border marketplace at the Pak-Iran border and demolished unnecessary checkposts in the area to boost business activities.
The border market has created numerous employment opportunities for the locals. The federal government has also awarded 2,000 boat engines to local fishermen and distributed 3,000 solar panels among 89,000 registered fishermen in the port city.
Former president of Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Fida Dashti, however, underlined the port’s role in facilitating barter trade with Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia, highlighting Gwadar’s strategic advantages over Port Qasim. He said that the opening of the border market at Gwadar was a remarkable step, but unless the government involves the local business community in the entire process of business at the border, one cannot expect the prolific rise of trade between Iran and Pakistan.
Fida Dashti, the former president of the Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industries, emphasized that a committee should be immediately formed to decide regarding the allotment of shops at the border market and other standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the same. He also stated that by involving the local population of Gwadar and the business community, more avenues could be explored to grow business in the port city.
A local fisherman named Sulaiman said that Gwadar Port is in dire need of a processing and cold storage facility to protect fish from decay. He mentioned that Gwadar has a thriving fishing industry that provides employment opportunities and contributes not only to the local economy but also has huge potential for fish export, which heavily depends on the establishment of storage and transportation facilities.
Director General of Gwadar Development Authority (GDA), Mujeeb ur Rehman Qandrani, told APP that several projects related to education, health, water, and electricity have been completed in Gwadar to facilitate the residents of the city.
The authorities have laid down 152 kilometers of pipelines in the city to provide clean drinking water to the citizens through the Shadi Kor and Swad dams. The water storage capacity of the Shadi Kor dam is 35,000 acre-feet, and it will supply 2.5 million gallons per day (MGD) of safe drinking water. The water storage capacity of the Swad dam is 46,000 acre-feet, and it will supply 5 MGD of water to the residents of the old city.
A desalination plant has been established with the assistance and funds of the Chinese government. The plant has the capacity to purify 1.2 million gallons of seawater per day to provide clean drinking water to the masses. The project has cost Rs 2 billion.
A Pak-China Friendship Hospital has been established over 68 acres of land. The hospital will be equipped with modern medical facilities.
All major projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Gwadar, including the Gwadar Power Plant, the distribution of 2,000 boat engines to fishermen in Gwadar, the Khuzdar-Panjgur Transmission Line (via Nag-Basima) connecting Markran with the national grid, the New Gwadar International Airport Project, the China-Pakistan Friendship Hospital, the China-Pakistan Technical and Vocational Institute in Gwadar, the Gwadar East-bay Expressway Project, the Gwadar Free Zone, and the Gwadar Port, will become shining pearls in the region.