A 105-kilometre railway line will be constructed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects from the Chhor area to Islamkot to transport coal from the coal mines in Thar to Port Qasim and upcountry.
Other schemes related to the Thar Coal project have also been included in the CPEC such as the installation of a 1,320-megawatt power plant in the Thar Coal Block-VI.
This was disclosed in a meeting held between Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and CPEC Authority (CPECA) Chairman General (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa on Friday at the CM House.
The CPECA chairman told the CM that the Chinese president was expected to visit Pakistan between May and June this year, therefore all the formalities and documentation of the CPEC-related projects should be complete by then.
The CM told him that at the CPEC-related forums, three projects of Sindh — the Karachi Circular Railway, the China Special Economic Zone Dhabeji and the Keti Bandar energy project — had already been approved. He added that only their financial mechanism was yet to be finalised.
Talking about the KCR, Shah said the framework agreement between Pakistan and Chinese planning commissions known as the NDRC was in the process of being signed.
Gen (retd) Bajwa said the KCR was a top priority of the CPECA. He added that he would pursue the already approved projects and the new projects with the Chinese authority so that work on them could be started as soon as possible.
He said the Karachi Port Trust had become one of the most loaded ports, therefore, a plan had been worked out to construct an expressway right from the sea up to the Malir Expressway.
To this, the CM said that Keti Bandar was also an important strategic and alternative port.
The CPECA chairman said in order to transport the Thar coal to the Port Qasim and upcountry, a feasibility study for a 105km railway track from Chhor to Islamkot had been prepared. This new railway track would be used for coal transportation from the coalfields of Islamkot.
Dhabeji Economic Zone
The CM said he had earmarked 1,530 acres of land for the Special Economic Zone in Dhabeji, a CPEC priority project.
He added that Dhabeji had various advantages such as it had access to Port Qasim enabling raw material import and finished goods export without incurring major inland transportation costs.
He added the the Dhabeji zone had access to Jinnah Terminal which was hardly 35 kilometres away through the National Highway, enabling safe travel of foreign workers and management personnel.
The CM said to Gen (retd) Bajwa that the project had been approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) and it had also committed to provide services such as electricity and gas.
The K-Electric would provide 250 MW electricity to the Dhabeji zone with an estimated cost of Rs4 billion. The planning commission has also approved the PC-I prepared by the Sindh investment department, Shah said, adding that 10 million gallons of water per day and 13.5 mmcfd gas would be also provided to the zone.
Keti Bandar was located about 107 km from Thatta city and 150 km from Karachi via Gharo and it was very promising in terms of future prospects, the CM remarked.
He added that the Keti Bandar project was an important part of his government’s strategy towards developing the energy sector.
He disclosed that a private firm had been engaged to conduct technical and financial feasibility study of the project in December 2019 and the financial feasibility study was almost complete and a report was to be submitted in this regard by the end of this month.
The first phase of the study is the technical feasibility for setting up a 1,320 MW power plant, railway line from Thar to Keti Bandar, power evacuation to national grid, construction of a coal jetty and allied infrastructure. The second phase consists of the bid management and the third phase pertains to transaction advices.
The other CPEC-related projects came under discussion between the CM and the CPECA chairman included major potential projects based in Thar discussed in the 9th Joint Cooperation Committee of CPEC meeting held on November 5, 2019.
One of such projects was about production of fertiliser. It was pointed out in the meeting that the combined designed urea production capacity of urea firms in Pakistan was at 6,447KMT per annum while they are operating at 5,700 KMT per annum in 2018. The reason for low capacity utilisation was reduced availability of natural gas.
To this, Gen (retd) Bajwa said we would have to increase our reliance on Thar coal power generation, Thar coal gasification and Thar Coal-based diesel that would help maintain our energy and food security, and reduce external crisis.
He added that he would visit Thar soon and then fly to China to finalise CPEC-related projects.
The meeting was also attended by Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh, Planning and Development Board Chairman Mohammad Waseem, Principal Secretary to the CM Sajid Jamal Abro, Energy Secretary Musadiq Khan, energy specialist of CPECA Yasir Arfat and infrastructure specialist Muzamil Zia.