ISLAMABAD: Satisfied with the outcome of meetings of the joint coordination committee (JCC) on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which were held late last month in China, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed the officials concerned to include in the CPEC the non-controversial hydroelectric projects proposed to be set up on the Indus.

Mr Sharif would soon invite top leaders from the four provinces to brief them about the way forward on the CPEC projects, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal said at a press conference on Wednesday that followed a meeting at which the prime minister reviewed the progress made at the JCC meetings.

Separately, the Prime Minister’s Office said that during the JCC meetings the Chinese authorities had agreed to consider for inclusion in the CPEC the schemes termed the “Indus Cascade projects”.

No controversial hydel scheme to be considered

Mr Iqbal told the news conference that to avoid controversies only the hydel projects on which the provinces had developed a consensus would be included in CPEC. “We will not add any controversial project which may provide financial benefits but which may disturb the provincial harmony or hurt the federation in the long run,” he said rather categorically. The minister said the JCC had agreed that work might be started on a 300MW coal-based power plant in Gwadar before March 31. The project was aimed at meeting the electricity demand of the port city.

The joint committee also agreed in principle that work might be started on a desalination plant whose completion would be linked to the power plant to be completed in two and half years.

Mr Iqbal said the JCC also decided to finalise a long-term plan for the CPEC by March 31, in consultation with all the stakeholders. This plan would provide new guidelines and serve to extend the mega-project’s scope to 2030.

He said the JCC had approved rail-based mass transit projects in three provincial capitals, namely the Greater Peshawar Mass Transit, Karachi Circular Railway and Quetta Mass Transit. One such project was already being built in Lahore.

The joint committee also approved the establishment of nine new industrial zones in different parts of the country, including one in each of the four provinces. He said the JCC had also approved upgradation of the Peshawar-Karachi railway tracks. Work on an international airport in Gwadar would be started in the current year.

Mr Iqbal said the total cost of the CPEC had exceeded $50 billion and the mega-project had now become the country’s largest portfolio involving new schemes relating to energy, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture and socio-economic development.

The joint working group on energy would meet in February and give formal approval to new energy projects, said the minister. About 5,000MW generated by projects in the CPEC portfolio would be added to the national grid by 2018. The JCC meetings held last week in Beijing would effectively move the CPEC projects to the next phase of development, he said.

The participation of chief ministers of the provinces in the meetings sent a strong message to the world that the Pakistani nation was united when it came to the CPEC.

The presence of the chief ministers also helped include new projects in the CPEC that would likely transform lifestyles of people living in far-flung parts of the country.

Mr Iqbal said the $1.5bn Matiari-Lahore transmission line project was also approved at the JCC meetings.

He said that during the review meeting PM Sharif expressed satisfaction over the inclusion in the CPEC of mass transit projects to be built in the four provinces, and instructed the railways minister to facilitate the provinces by extending them technical expertise.

The prime minister was quoted as saying that foreign investors were now showing keen interest in investing in Pakistan, which was a consequence of the government’s successful economic policies.

“The road connectivity projects will open up underdeveloped areas of Pakistan to investment,” he said and asked the ministries concerned to initiate the process of providing electricity and gas and telecommunication facilities at the proposed industrial parks.

Published in Dawn January 5th, 2017


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