There are some truths that are stranger than fiction. CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is one of such truths. It is the longest 2,442 km (1,517 miles) overland corridor that the world never experienced before what is constructed through the mountainous region of Pakistan’s Balochistan province that will directly connect China’s Kashgar (in Xinjiang province) and Pakistan’s Gwadar Deep Seaport (in Balochistan province). It will indirectly connect by road and sea Southeast Asian to African, Middle Eastern to Central Asian and European countries.
The project will bring about a revolutionary change in Pakistan in the field of its infrastructure, energy, transportation and communication systems, which will ultimately upgrade its economy, social life and security arrangements. Though it is generally said that China invested US$46 billion to construct the CPEC, but in reality an extra amount of $30 billion will be added with to complete the whole project. Other than the main corridor, massive roads and highways will cover whole of Pakistan like nets, which will connect all major and minor cities and towns of Pakistan that will carry the benefits of the corridor to the doorsteps of the Pakistani people of remote areas. A 1,100 kilometer-long motorway will be constructed between the cities of Karachi and Lahore, while the Karakoram Highway between Rawalpindi and Chinese border will be completely reconstructed and overhauled. The Karachi–Peshawar main railway line will also be upgraded to facilitate trains to travel at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour. Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang Railway in Kashgar.
4 to 6-lane controlled access highway (known as M9 motorway) will connect Pakistan’s two largest cities — Karachi and Lahore — which will enable the vehicles to run 120 kilometers per hour. Some other motorways will connect Karachi and Hyderabad (136 kilometers); Hyderabad and Sukkur (296 kilometers), Sukkur and Multan (387 kilometers) and Multan and Lahore via the town of Abdul Hakeem (333 kilometers).
At the crossing of the M9 motorway in Hyderabad, the Karachi-Lahore Motorway will run 296 kilometers onwards to Sukkur with six-lane what will provide high speed road access to interior Sindh – especially near the towns of Matiari, Nawabshah and Khairpur. The project will require the construction of seven interchanges and 25 bridges on the Indus River and irrigation canals.
The 392-kilometer Sukkur and Multan section of the motorway will be a six-lane wide controlled access highway, with 11 planned interchanges, 10 rest facilities, 492 underpasses, and 54 bridges along its route. The Multan-Lahore motorway will be 333 kilometers long while 102 kilometer-long motorway will connect Khanewal and Abdul Hakeem.
Under the CPEC project an expanded and upgraded road network of several hundred kilometers having 2 and 4-lane divided highways (6-lane motorway in future) will be constructed in the Pakistani provinces of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Western Punjab. In total 870 kilometres of road in Balochistan province will be reconstructed under the CPEC project.
The newly reconstructed Karakoram Highway will connect Burhan to the new 285 kilometer-long controlled-access Brahma Bahtar-Yarik Motorway. It will crisscross the Sindh Sagar Doab region, and cross the Indus River at Mianwali before entering into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It will consist of 11 interchanges, 74 culverts, and 3 major bridges over the Indus, Soan and Kurram Rivers Pakistan suffers from acute energy shortages of over 4,500MW for decades
that frustrates its economic development. Its existing energy generating capacity is 24,830 MW. As a result, power blockade daily lasts for five hours in mills and factories in various parts of Pakistan, which deters production, worsens its economy and aggravates unemployment problems.
CPEC will salvage Pakistan’s energy sector. According to China Daily, the energy projects under CPEC would provide up to 16,400 MW energy altogether. Approximately $33 billion expected to be invested in this sector. As part of the ‘Early Harvest’ scheme of the CPEC, an estimated 10,400 MW of electricity are planned for generation by March 2018 in conjunction with four projects. Electricity from these projects will primarily be generated by coal, through wind projects and solar energy plants.
The bulk of new energy generation capacity under CPEC will be coal-based plants, with $5.8 billion worth of coal power projects expected to be completed by early 2019 as part of the CPEC's ‘Early Harvest’ projects. China will construct two 660MW power plants as part of the ‘Thar-I’ project in the Thar Coalfield of Sindh Province. The facility will be powered by locally sourced coal. Near the ‘Thar-I’ Project, the China Machinery Engineering Corporation in collaboration with Pakistan’s Engro Corporation will construct two 330MW power plants as part of the ‘Thar-11’ Project as well as developing a coal mine capable of producing up to 3.8 million tons of coal per year. It will eventually generate an additional 3,960MW of electricity over the course of ten years. As part of infrastructure required for electricity distribution from the Thar l and ll Projects, the $2.1 billion Matiari to Lahore Tranmission Line and $1.5 billion in Matiari to Faisalabad transmission line are also to be built as part of the CPEC project.
The $1.8 billion Sahiwal Coal Power Project is under construction in central Punjab that will have a capacity of 1,320MW. The $589 million-project will develop a coal mine to construct a relatively small 300MW coal power plant in the town of PindDan Khan. Another $970 million coal power plant at Hub, near Karachi, with a capacity of 660MW to be built by a joint consortium of Chinese ‘China Power Investment Corporation and the Pakistani firm ‘Hub Power Company’ will produce 1,320MW from coal. A 300MW coal power plant is also being developed in the city of Gwadar.
China’s Zonergy Company will complete construction on the world’s largest solar power plant – the 6,500 acre Quaid-Azam Solar Park near the city of Bahawalpur with an estimated capacity of 1000MW. The Jhimpir Wind Power Plant, built by the Turkish Company Zorlu Enerji has already begun to sell 56.4 MW of electricity to the government of Pakistan, though under CPEC, another 250MW of electricity are to be produced by the Chinese-Pakistani consortium. Another wind farm, the Dawood Wind Power Project is under construction by Hydro-China at a cost of $115 million, and will generate 50 MW of electricity by August 2016.
SK Hydro Consortium is constructing the 870MW Suki Kinari Hydropower Project in the Kaghan Valley of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The $1.6 billion 720MW Karot Dam, which is under construction, is a part of the CPEC plan.
Liquefied natural gas power LNG projects are also considered vital to CPEC. The Chinese government will build a $2.5 billion 711 kilometer long liquid natural gas pipeline from Gwadar to Nawabshah in Balochistan to transport gas from Iran as part of CPEC. The pipeline is designed to be a part of the 2,775 kilometer long Iran–Pakistan gas pipeline. This is not related to 1,100 kilometer North-South Pipeline liquefied natural gas pipeline which is to be constructed with Russian assistance between Karachi and Lahore or TAPI Pipeline which is a planned project involving Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The project will not only provide gas exporters with access to the Pakistani market, but will also allow China to secure a route for its own imports. The 1,223MW Balloki Power Plant is currently under construction near Kasur. Such energy projects will surely invigorate Pakistan’s large textile industry what has also been negatively affected by several-hour long power cuts.
A major part of CPEC initiative is, installation of fiber optics and satellite Internet connections. This will instantly connect Pakistan’s remote areas and help boost its Internet user base. The multi-national companies in technology and telecommunication space will rush to use it as their regional base to serve the growing needs of the countries in the Middle-East, Iran and Central Asia.
It is imperative to write a few words regarding Gwardar Deep Sea, the central destination of the CPEC. It will be decorated with dockyard, floating liquefied natural gas facility (Iran-Pakistan gas line), free trade zone covering an area of 2,282 acres (special economic zone for China), 300MW Coal Power Plant, hotels and other infrastructures, 300-bed hospital, a training institute (Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute) to impart local residents the skill required to operate work at the extended Gwarda port. On November 14, 2016, Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced plans to open four Job properties in Pakistan.
The corridor will really appear as a blessing for Pakistan. Pakistani officials predict that the project will create 700,000 direct jobs, not to speak of indirect ones that will increase annual economic growth rate 2 to 2.5% and encourage foreign direct investment in Pakistan. After the implementation of all the planned projects, the value of those would be equal to all direct foreign investment in Pakistan since 1970. All types of exportable Pakistani products will get easy access to profitable markets of all the countries that will join the corridor by land or sea.
It is encouraging that thousands of Pakistani youths learn Chinese language to fetch the benefits from the changed Gwadar and its adjoining areas. It is a positive sign that Pakistanis are getting ready to avail the benefits of the corridor. It will enormously benefit the people of Balochistan. The people therein will get job and business opportunity, ease communication, electricity and gas facilities that will change their tribal lifestyle. Once the young forces are engaged in money generating activities they will not act as the pawn of the alien hawks to disintegrate Pakistan. They will return to normal life.
Initially the benefits of the corridor seem to tilt to China, but after 30 years Pakistan will be the main beneficiary when all types of surcharges, taxes and duties will be applicable even for China. The revenue that Pakistan will earn in the shape of tax and duties for using its facilities and the moving goods will inject new blood to Pakistan’s economy. Moreover, with reduced taxation on locally produced goods Pakistan would be able to compete with India and China in international markets.
However, success and benefits will entirely defend how aptly the Pakistani leadership, its bureaucracy, entrepreneurs, workforce, above all, security agencies can coordinately avail and use the fortune that will come to their doorsteps. Pakistan must follow zero tolerance against terrorist or disruptive activities to maintain peaceful and congenial atmosphere not along the corridor but also whole of Pakistan. Security of the local and foreign workers and technicians, vehicles and all types of installations and infrastructures must be ensured. Labor unrest should be deterred providing lucrative remuneration and other facilities. Pakistan, even China, must not forget that evil powers and players will remain active to jeopardize the main projects and their subsidiaries.*
The Contributor is a journalist & researcher