Balochistan is a strategically located province. The ongoing mega development projects like Gwadar deep-sea port would make the province a hub for regional transport more effectively for land locked Afghanistan and Central Asian states. This would accentuate the existing road network in Balochistan. Therefore Balochistan urgently needs a mega road sector development project to cope with the new circumstances after the completion of mega projects in the province and expected surge in economic activities in the province.
Balochistan’s geo-strategic location makes it the most attractive for transit traffic to the land locked Central Asian Republics (CARs). It provides greater opportunities for trade and commerce to all countries of the region by virtue of its strategic location. The Asian Development Bank has already approved construction of Gwadar-Saindak Highway taking the international highway to the borders with Afghanistan.
Gwadar port is of immense importance not only for trade with CARs but also for the development of Pakistan. Of course, Gwadar has the potential to become a hub of major economic and commercial activities in the region. There is a high need for establishing roads and warehousing facilities at Taftan, Chaman and Torkham borders in order to make full use of Gwadar port. The future scenario necessitates the establishment of a strong, well-coordinated and metalloid highway and road and rail network spreading across the province and interlinking the major commercial centers in Balochistan. The existing road network in Balochistan is in a dire need of maintenance and repair. A coordinated network of roads does not interlink 32 districts in the province and hence there are missing links between economic centers in Balochistan. The limited road access and lack of road network affect the people of rural areas reducing their access to markets. This is a potent cause of prevailing poverty in the province.
Work on $47 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is currently underway. Gwadar port is essential part of CPEC, which involves construction of highways, railways and energy pipelines connecting western China with Pakistan and the Persian Gulf. The mega port project is bound to have strong impact on the living standards of people and economy of Balochistan.
The CPEC and Gwadar port are expected to usher in a new era of industrial development in Balochistan. Balochistan possesses enormous industrial potential in key sectors — agriculture, livestock, fisheries and minerals. There are greater investment opportunities in all sectors of provincial economy for exploiting the industrial potential of the province. A large number of agro-based, livestock-based, fisheries-based and mineral-based industries can be set up in the province.
A fully operational Gwadar port will boost industrialization process in the province. With the functioning of industrial zone, Gwadar would become a hub of industrial and trade activities. The 3,000 acres of land have already been reserved for the development of Gwadar Industrial Estate (GIE) to meet the demand of industrial plots and to cope up with the needs of modern industrialization in the port city. Located at Karwat on Makran coastal highway about 40 km from Gwadar, the GIE is the first industrial estate of the emerging port city. Over 1,100 plots have been allotted to industrialists in the estate.
GIE would be the biggest industrial estate in Balochistan. According to the master plan of GIE, 1000 acres of land would be developed in the first phase. Following industries are planned to be developed in the GIE:
– Small manufacturing;
– High-tech electronic fabrication and assembly plants;
– Metal and wood fabrication and assembly;
– PVC housing & extrusion;
– Fish processing & canning;
– Life engineering;
– Textile & garments;
– Food & flour mills; and
– Refrigeration & cold storages
Ware housing, buildings, commercial plots, support services and other facilities have also been planned to promote industrial activity in the port city. The GIE master plan also includes the setting up of flatted factories in order to provide services to the future small industrial and commercial enterprises in Gwadar. The housing schemes for workers and low-income groups of people have also been planned.
A catalyst for development
Gwadar port is set to bring Balochistan’s coastal areas into the economic mainstream of Pakistan. It will catalyze the development process in the province bringing it at par with other provinces. Development of an integrated transport system and future road and rail links to CARs and rest of the country will enhance the local peoples’ access to new vistas of development and prosperity.
A fully operational Gwadar port provides the province enormous opportunities to exploit its mineral resources, which have so far been untapped. Gwadar seaport and the planned regional highway projects will help the province become a world-class mining center. Foreign mining firms in Balochistan have shown keen interest in bringing their cargoes through the port of Gwadar. Besides, serving as transshipment hub, it would promote the development of a refinery and petrochemical complex and other industries. ECO highway, coastal highway and other mega projects in road sector will connect Gwadar port with Central Asian states, Gulf sheikdoms and rest of the country.
The port project is expected to bring a revolution in social sector changing the socio-economic conditions of the local people and raising their living standards. Many industries have been envisaged to be established in and around Gwadar. The skilled manpower would be needed for the operation of the port and the allied industries.
According to one estimate, the Gwadar port has the potential to generate over $50 billion in transit trade annually and after becoming fully operational along with strong communication and transport links with Central Asian States, Iran, western provinces of China and commercial cities of the country, an estimated two-third population of Balochistan will become part of port-related activities.
Commerce, industry, trade and economic activities would receive a boost after the development of two-phased seaport in the province. Naturally the local people will benefit from the economic activities underway in their areas. The mega seaport project will open the doors for development of small, medium and large scale industries generating revenue for the government and providing profitable avenues for both the skilled and non-skilled workforce in Balochistan.