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KCCDZ: Expanding the maritime component of CPEC

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It is heartening to note that maritime cooperation is increasingly emerging as an important component of Pak-China relations in general and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in particular. Initiation of Karachi Comprehensive Coastal Development Zone (KCCDZ) is indeed a major boost in this connection.
It is now a well-known fact that CPEC is moving ahead as a multidimensional flagship project of China’s mega Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The initial MoU was signed in July 2013. However, the fast execution of CPEC began in April 2015 after the visit of the President of China, Xi Jinping to Pakistan. CPEC is a long-run well-grounded project to build stronger cooperation not only between Pakistan and China for mutual benefits of China, but it lays the foundation for broad-based connectivity and cooperation amongst the regions of Central, West, and South Asia.
The maritime component of CPEC is of vital importance. The Gwadar Port being developed as part of the CPEC project will improve connectivity not only in Pakistan and China but would serve the same purpose for all the countries of the region. The first phase of the Gwadar port has been completed successfully; the port is operational. However, it is not operating at its optimum capacity. And now the second developmental phase is in progress. Yet, it would not be wrong to say that Gwadar port is still a long way from its potential.
However, the inclusion of the Karachi Comprehensive Coastal Development Zone (KCCDZ) under CPEC in the 10th Joint Cooperation Committee on 23 September 2021 comes as a much-awaited and key expansion of the maritime component under CPEC. An MoU was signed between KPT and China Road & Bridge Corporation (CRBC) in this context. The MoU aimed at resolving infrastructure issues in Karachi along with the development of the maritime sector in a holistic way, with focus on the provision of job opportunities through sustainable development based on technology transfer to the maritime industry of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan applauded this initiative of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs (MoMA) of inclusion of KCCDZ under CPEC and called it a ‘Game Changer’ for Pakistan. Animated images of a developed KCCDZ displaying a vast coastline of Pakistan dotted with compound buildings were also shared on different media channels. The whole advanced development will take place over the “reclaimed area of KPT” covering over 640 hectares (1581.474 acres). The project is expected to complete in not more than 5 to 6 years considering the Chinese work efficiency.
According to media sources, this ‘game changer’ with a $3.5 billion investment from China will include four new berths in Karachi Port Trust (KPT), a new fishery port, and a grand harbor bridge connecting Manora island and Sandspit beach.
This will help Pakistan to capitalize on its vast potential of Blue Economy, more so for this main port city is said to be having a population of 25 million, even more. The project is considered to help in cleaning Pakistan’s maritime habitat for fishermen communities and will present new opportunities for investors, resulting in the multiplication of livelihoods. 20,000 low-income housing units will also be developed under this project. Moreover, it also focused on the ultramodern infrastructure zone in Karachi, turning it into among the top global cities.
Once KCCDZ will be fully developed, Blue Economy would become an even more important sector within Pakistan’s economy by enhancing sea trade, infrastructure development, growth in the fisheries sector, amazing opportunities for investors, and employment for the city’s dwellers. It will further enhance development & industrial cooperation between the two countries.
The ongoing challenges faced by ports around the world necessitate that countries like Pakistan upgrade their port infrastructures. KCCDZ would serve the purpose. In future years, when the upgraded Karachi port on the eastern corner of Pakistan’s coast and a functional Gwadar port on the western corner of the same cost start to complement each other, the country would strengthen its position as an important maritime player. Pakistan and China should both prioritize this project to be executed and completed in the shortest possible time.