ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to start construction work at Gwadar Port by March 2018, and contrary to earlier reports in the media, has agreed that Chinese and Pakistani investors will get an equal opportunity to invest in economic zones that will be established along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting on the CPEC, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, on Friday.

The media reports had suggested that only Chinese investors would be accommodated in the economic zones and Pakistanis will be barred from investing there. This assumption was laid to rest at the meeting, where the lawmakers were told that Pakistani investors would have an equal opportunity for investment.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said that Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, who is also Interior Minister, gave the participants of the meeting a detailed briefing on the CEPC.

The participants were informed that a feasibility study of the construction of Gwadar Port was complete, and the construction could begin as early as March 2018. The project will be completed in three years.

Previously, the government had claimed that the project would be complete by Dec 2018.

The participants were told that the 19km-long East Bay Expressway of Gwadar had been constructed — 14km along the shore and 5km offshore. The Southern Bay Expressway will be completed by Jan 2017 and the Northern Bay Expressway by Dec 2018.

Regarding water facilities at the Gwadar Port and free economic zone, the meeting was informed that water was being provided through various sources and means as the main reservoir of drinking water had dried up. The projected water requirement in the free economic zone would rise to 20 million gallons per day (MGD) by 2018 and up to 243MGD by 2028. The present requirement of water in Gwadar is 19MGD and it is expected to rise up to 300MGD by 2030.

The prime minister was informed hat the seventh meeting of the Joint Working Group of CPEC would be held in Islamabad on Monday.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2017

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