Muhammad Zahid Rifat
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which has become household mention as a great game changer with its abbreviated title CPEC, is making steady progress towards bringing the peoples of the two time-tested, all weather friendly countries further closer to each other and ushering in a new era of progress, development and prosperity through implementation of number of projects mainly I energy and infrastructure sectors launched under its overall umbrella in different parts of the country.
According to the latest figures available from official sources out of total 46 billion dollars, as much as 35 billion dollars was purely investment from China for energy sector and the rest has been given to Pakistan as soft loan at very low rates for infrastructure development. This quite appreciably sets at rest questions being raised by some quarters from time to time about loans for CPEC piling up Pakistan’s foreign debt burden and how this will be repaid on being mature after more than a decade period.
It has also been made point clear by the Chinese government at the appropriate level that the recent political developments and change of the government from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif since disqualified to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will not effect CPEC in any manner. The Deputy Foreign Minister of China Dr Baige Zhao during his visit to Pakistan in the second week of August 2017 quite emphatically said that change of government in Pakistan is not a problem at all that can affect CPEC as the comprehensive project aims at uniting people of both the countries who are the real stakeholders. He said that CPEC is a huge project that will change the fate of both the nations. He said the people of China and China are going to greatly benefit from the project especially young entrepreneurs and engineers studying at the universities will have ample opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills for CPEC.
Before briefly mention the energy and infrastructure development sectors projects already launched and under implementation in Pakistan, it is pertinent to mention here that besides increasing connectivity between different areas of Pakistan as well as countries of the region, the CPEC will also be greatly contributing towards elimination of unemployment in the country through creation of employment opportunities.
Other priorities of the CPEC included transport and communications, industrial parks,special economic zones and people to people cooperation besides energy and infrasdtructure sectors.
According to the facts and figures available in this regard, already more than 30 thousand Pakistani engineers, technicians and workers have been employed at different CPEC projects who are working with some 7000 Chinese engineers and technicians. While on job, Pakistani engineers and technicians are also availing the opportunity to learn about Chinese technology and know-how.
A study by Karachi-based Applied Economic Research Centre in December last year had estimated that as per very conservative estimates, minimum of seven lakhs Pakistanis will be getting direct jobs in the CPEC projects. Indirect jobs opportunities to be so created and the number of beneficiaries is pretty difficult to count. Quite obviously, in case the scope of CPEC is expanded, of which there are great chances, then the number of Pakistanis getting employment on all CPEC projects over the years will still be higher than the present figure of seven lakhs.
Scope of CPEC is enhanced through mutual consultations by main stakeholders China and Pakistan at the highest level of the leadership of respective countries and progress is reviewed periodically jointly either in Beijing or in Islamabad. CPEC initially involved estimated investment of 46 billion dollars and after inclusion of more projects at the request of Pakistan, the investment has soared higher to 57 billion dollars.
CPEC related activities are expected to galvanize Pakistan’s economy and propel it onto a higher growth trajectory by lowering transactions costs, improving productivity, encouraging research and development and spurring innovation.
Some other likely outcomes of this mammoth project, which is being implemented in phased manner from 2015 to 2030 can be listed as the expansion of the economy from 229 billion dollars to 1.30 trllion dollars by 2025, escalation of the per capita income to 5000 dollars by 2025, increase in exports from current level of less than 25 billion dollars to 150 billion dollars by 2025 and increase in the national savings to 26 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by terminal year.
Some economic features which have made CPEC important for Pakistan are reinforced investors confidence, besides achieving GDP growth above 7 per cent, accelerated economic activity led by construction sector, overcoming energy deficiency, infrastructure development, greater employment opportunities in Balochistan and Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah , establishment of new special economic zones in all the four provinces, FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan as well as in Azad Kashmir and more significantly and importantly, all provinces and regions of Pakistan are equal beneficiaries of the benefits accruing from the CPEC.
All these have been agreed by both the countries to be undertaken under CPEC umbrella but are at varying stages of planning and approval whereas as many as eleven energy sector and eight infrastructure projects are under implementation or completed in different parts of the country by the Chinese companies. Out of 11 energy sector projects, four have already been completed adding 1500 megawatt of power to the national grid and remaining projects at various stages of completion and on completion in due course of time will be adding substantial 8000 megawatt of power to the national grid thus eliminating lingering electricity load shedding to a great extent.
On the other hand, eight infrastructure projects are under implementation and at various stages of their completion according to their time schedule.
Out of eleven energy sector projects, 1320 megawatt coal fired power plant has been completed 6 months ahead of schedule and has earned the distinction of being the first large power plant to be completed under CPEC .
Port Qasim power 660 MW Unit 1 is all set to start generation in November 2017 meeting power needs of as much as three to four million families.
Thar Block 11 Lignite Mining and Coal Fire Power project is located in Tharparkar district in Sindh and is designed to produce cheap local coal energy to end circular debt.
Three Gorges second phase wind power projects (2×59 MW) are located at Jhimpir, Thatta district, Sindh and presently completing different construction milestones.
720 MW Karot Hydropower Project located on river Jhelum has since achieved financial close and land acquisition and engineering works are being completed at a rapid pace. The project will provide employment to more than 2000 locals besides a number of other socio-economic benefits.
UEP 99 MW Wind Farm Project located in Jhimpir, Thatta district, has earned the honours of Wind Power CPEC project completion.
873 MW Suki Kinari hydropower station project is located above Kunhar river in district Mansehra in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah (KPK) province will help to overcome energy shortage with cheap hydel power, it is being described to be an engineering marvel on completion and the work is progressing well on the site, During the construction work, more than four thousand employees are going to be hired by the Chinese contractors.
900 MW Zonergy Solar Power Project is located at Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur, Punjab , in an area of 4500 acres of land ,is listed as CPEC’s early harvest project to achieved energization. The project is being implemented in three phases each consisting of 300 MW. It is already contributing 300 MW to the national grid, meeting 30 per cent of Bahawalpur region electricity needs and has provided employment to 3000 local people.
Sachal 50 MW Wind Farm Project located in Jhimpir district Thatta district has since been completed and is regarded as another early harvest project undee CPEC.
Dawood 50 MW Wind Farm project is located in coastal area of Gharo wind corridor in Bhanbore district Thatta Sindh and has also since been completed.
China Power Hub Generation 2 x 660 MW Coal-fired Power Plant is located in Hub, Balochistan, and has achieved substantial progress, will use imported coal and once completed it will be one of the largest imported coal power projects in Pakistan.
The main line of Lahore Orange Line project is 25.58 kilometers including underground line 1.07 km, elevated transition line 0.71 km and elevated line 23.80 km. Stations are designed to be 24 elevated asnd 2 underground respectively. Till now, more than 58 per cent of total civil works have been completed.
Development of Gwadar Free Zone is located in northern part of Gwadar, about 7 km away from the existing port and includes total area of 923 hectares.
Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan Project is located in Gwadar with a planning area of 1193 kilometers .Gwadar is the gateway linking the Persian Gulf and the Arabia Sea . The city is the southern starting point of the CPEC.
Karakoram Highway (KKH) Phase-11 (Havelian-Thakot) project is located in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah (KPK) with a total length of 118 km out of which 39 km is expressway and includes 105 bridges out of which 60 are large bridges, 42 medium bridges and three small bridges. There are six tunnels also. Project was formally launched in September 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in 42 months. So far, over 2000 Pakistani staff has been employed at the KKH and more will continue to be hired as and when need arises during construction.
China-Pakistan Faqeer Primary School project is being constructed in Gwadar over the 752 square meters land donated by a 65 years old local man named Shair Mohammad for promotion of education in the area.
Feasibility Study of Upgrading Railway Mainline-1 and Establishment of Havelian Dry Port . The feasibility report has since been completed in July 2016. This is the first early harvest project completed under the CPEC.Mainline-1 starts from Karachi and ends at Peshawar passing through Rohri, Multan, Lahore and Rawalpindi with a total length of 1817 kilometers.
China-Pakistan Cross-Border Optical Fiber Cable Project is also a prioritized /early harvest project under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor .It runs from Rawalpindi to Khunjraband includes 820 km cable laying, 9 cites civil work, equipment installation and commissioning in the equipment room as well as the backup of microwave links. The working environment is harsh in particular that there is an altitude of 4500 meters near Chinese-Pakistan border. It was formally commenced in September 2016 with a construction period of 27 months.
Peshawar-Karachi Motorway (Sukkur-Multan Section) Project , also known with short name of PKM project, starts rom Karachi then passes through Lahore and ends at Peshawar. Sukkur-Multan section is 392 km long and 31.25 m wide and is a 6-lane access controlled Intelligent Transportation System motorway. The ground breaking ceremony of the project was performed in May 2016 at Sukkur and is planned to be completed in August 2019. So far, 373km of access road has been completed.
The writer is Lahore-based Free-lance Journalist,Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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