KARACHI: A formal approval to the Karachi Circular Railway, Dhabeji Economic Zone, Keti Bundar port and other projects in Sindh will be given during an expected visit of the Chinese president to Pakistan.
A 105-kilometre railway line will be laid from Chhor to Islamkot to transport coal from Thar’s fields to Port Qasim and upcountry. Besides, projects related to coal-to-gas-to-urea liquid and installation of 1,320MW power plant in Thar coal block under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would also be launched.
A meeting in this regard between Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and CPEC Authority chairman retired Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa was held at CM House.
Energy Minister Imtiaz Sheikh and other officials were also present.
Mr Bajwa was assisted by energy specialist of CPEC Authority Yasir Arafat and infrastructure specialist Muzammil Zia.
He told the chief minister the Chinese president was expected to visit Pakistan between May and June this year so all formalities and documentation of CPEC-related projects should be completed.
CPEC Authority chief Asim Bajwa calls on Sindh CM to discuss mega schemes
The chief minister said three projects of Sindh — KCR, China Special Economic Zone Dhabeji and Keti Bundar port — had already been approved at CPEC-related forums and only their financial mechanisms were yet to be finalised.
Regarding the KCR, Mr Shah said framework agreement between Pakistan and Chinese Planning Commission, known as NDRC, was in process to be signed.
He said that the concessional agreement between China and Pakistan was being made and the Pakistan Railways and Sindh government had also agreed on handing over the right of way at common corridor between ML-1 and KCR.
Mr Bajwa said the KCR was on top priority of the CPEC Authority and that he would pursue the already approved project and the new project with the Chinese authorities so that work on them could begin at the earliest.
He said the Karachi Port Trust had become one of the most loaded ports and a plan had been worked out to construct an expressway right on the sea up to Malir Expressway which the Sindh government was going to start. The chief minister said Keti Bundar was also an important strategic location and could serve as an alternative port.
To transport coal to Port Qasim from Thar a 105km railway track from Chhor to Islamkot had been prepared, Mr Bajwa said, adding that with the construction of the railway line it would accord access to Islamkot, the coalfield area, to serve as the means of coal transportation. Besides, from Karachi to Chhor there was a main railway line.
Dhabeji Economic Zone
The chief minister said he had earmarked 1,530 acres for China Special Economic Zone at Dhabeji.
He added Dhabeji had various advantages including the fact that it had access to Port Qasim enabling raw material import and finished goods’ export without incurring major inland transportation costs and saving of time.
CM Shah said the Dhabeji zone had access to the Jinnah Terminal, which was hardly 35km via the National Highway enabling safe travel of foreign workers and management personnel.
It also had direct access to the National Highway enabling transportation of goods to upcountry and Central Asian destinations by using the National Trade Corridor.
Mr Shah said the project had been approved by the Ecnec and it had also committed to provide services such as electricity and gas. K-Electric would provide 250MW at doorstep at Dhabeji zone with an estimated cost of Rs4 billion.
The Planning Commission had also approved the PC-I prepared by the Sindh investment department, he said, adding that 10 million-gallon-per-day water and 13.5mmcfd gas would also be provided to the zone.
Murad Ali Shah said Keti Bundar was located about 107km from Thatta city and 150km from Karachi via Gharo which was very promising in terms of future prospects.
“The Keti Bundar project is an important part of our government’s strategy towards developing the energy sector,” he said.
He disclosed a private firm had been engaged to conduct technical and financial feasibility study of the project last December and the financial feasibility was almost completed and a report would be submitted by the end of this month.
The other CPEC-related projects that came under discussion between the chief minister and Mr Bajwa were two major potential schemes based on Thar coal which were discussed at the ninth Joint Cooperation Committee meeting held on Nov 5 last year.
The first project was coal-to-liquid engineering plan based on Thar coal at Thar. The second project is for coal gasification for fertiliser production.
Mr Bajwa said: “We will have to increase our reliance on Thar coal power generation, gasification and Thar coal-based diesel that would help in maintaining our energy, food security and reduce external crisis.”
Mr Shah appreciated Mr Bajwa’s opinion and support to the Sindh government’s development strategy, saying it would help in improving the balance sheet of Pakistan’s national organisations that had become red due to circular debt and external crisis.
Mr Bajwa said that he would soon visit Thar before flying to China to finalise the CPEC-related approved and new projects.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020