Pakistan’s Prime Minister performs groundbreaking of Gwadar airport

Prime Minister Imran Khan at the ground-breaking ceremony of Balochistan Health Complex in Quetta on March 29, 2019. (PID photo)
Updated 30 March 2019

Pakistan’s Prime Minister performs groundbreaking of Gwadar airport

  • The PM also inaugurates work on a cardiac center
  • Promises inclusive development process and prosperity for local people

KARACHI/GWADAR: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday led the groundbreaking ceremony of the multimillion dollar, Chinese-funded New Gwadar International Airport (NGIA), promising to take locals onboard while undertaking development activities in their area.

“I am very happy to be in Gwadar,” he said. “It is my first visit.”

The $230 million NGIA project is part of the Gwadar city development project worth $690 million. The Chinese government is financing the program that falls under the purview of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The NGIA will be able to handle a combination of various airplanes, such as ATR 72, Airbus A300, Boeing 737 and 747, on domestic and international routes.

The covered area of the airport will be 18 square kilometers (approximately 4447.9 acres) and it will have 14,000 square meter terminal building, airfield area (category 4F runway of 3658 meters) and air traffic control facilities, including metrology, communication and navigation.

The prime Minister assured local fishermen that the development would not affect their businesses as “they fear that they will be deprived of their livelihood due to the express way.” “We have allocated funds for you,” he added. “We will make bridges so there is no hindrance in the way of your business.”

Khan assured local residents of the area that his administration would take them along and they would be the first to benefit from the development work.

He added that his government was seeking help from China to develop railway lines and acquire latest technology. “We will connect Gwadar and Quetta through a rail link. We are seeking help from the Chinese because China is far advanced in terms of its railway technology. For example, you can travel in four hours from Karachi to Lahore in a Chinese train. We will develop such technology with Chinese assistance.”

He further announced: “I am going to China in April to enhance cooperation in various sectors, such as train technology, agriculture and fisheries.”

Earlier, the prime minister performed the groundbreaking of a cardiac center and Quetta-Zhob road. Both projects will be implemented by the Pakistan Army and the provincial administration of Balochistan under a joint venture.

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Chief Minister Balochistan Mir Jam Kamal accompanied the prime minister during the groundbreaking ceremony. “The Pakistan Army, in collaboration with the government of Balochistan, has planned construction of a state-of-the-art Balochistan Health Complex in Quetta as part of the Khushal Balochistan Program for providing best medical facilities to the local population under [projects] sponsored by the United Arab Emirates,” said a statement issued by the military’s media wing, ISPR.

The cardiac facility will be the first in the province. To make it environment-friendly, Bio Medical Workshop and Waste Management Plant will also be constructed.

The Quetta-Zhob N-50 Motorway will pass through Kuchlak, Muslim Bagh and Qilla Saifullah, reducing the travel time between Quetta and Dera Ismail Khan from 12 hours to four hours. It will also result in the socioeconomic uplift of the local population. The road will also facilitate speedy transportation of goods from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the seaport of Karachi.

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

Updated 19 October 2020

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

  • Fisherfolk forum says government plan to allow Chinese to carry out deep-sea fishing in territorial waters could render millions jobless 
  • Federal government says bottom trawling will not be allowed under new fishing policy

KARACHI: A pressure group that represents Pakistani fishermen has said a government plan to allow Chinese companies to carry out deep-sea fishing in the country’s territorial waters could threaten the survival of at least three million people who depend on the sea for livelihood.
Last month, 12 Chinese deep-sea trawlers docked at the port of Karachi, unleashing fear among local fishermen who say commercial fishing vessels and bottom-trawling would deplete fish stocks in the exclusive federal sea zones off the Sindh and Balochistan provinces. 
Bottom trawling - dragging nets across the sea floor to scoop up fish - stirs up the sediment lying on the seabed, displaces or harms some marine species, causes pollutants to mix into plankton and move into the food chain and creates harmful algae blooms or oxygen-deficient dead zones.
The coastal line of Sindh and Balochistan is 1,050 km long, Mohammad Ali Shah, Chairman Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, told Arab News last week, saying around three million fishermen relied on the sea to survive. 
A new fishing policy is expected but yet to be revealed by the government, he said. 
“The deep-sea trawler policy has not yet been approved but before that they [China] have brought these trawlers,” Shah said, calling the arrival of the Chinese vessels at Karachi port last month ‘illegal.’ 

In this undated photo, fishing vessels of Fujian Fishery Company move from the Gwadar port towards Karachi, Pakistan (Photo courtesy: Fishermen Cooperatives Society)

In 2018, the government enacted a deep-sea fishing licensing policy that both fishermen's representative bodies and provincial government bodies opposed, calling it a constitutional violation and an encroachment on the livelihoods of fishermen in the coastal provinces.
Fears about foreign fishing companies eating up local communities are not new.
For years, fishermen in the southwestern city of Gwadar in Balochistan province - a flagship of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - have protested against foreign trawlers. 
Tensions first began to mount when the Fisheries Department disclosed its plan to issue licenses to various foreign fishing vessels to operate in an exclusive economic zone in 2016.
But last week, the federal minister for maritime affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, told Arab News the country’s new deep-sea fishing policy would not allow Chinese trawlers to engage in unregulated deep-sea fishing. Bottom trawling, he said, would be banned under the new policy.
“Importing boats is not illegal,” he said. “How you use them has to be regulated.”
Pakistan divides its sea into three zones, where zone-3 (from 20 to 200 nautical miles) is controlled by the federal government. Up to 12 nautical miles (zone-1) is the domain of the provinces Sindh and Balochistan and between 12 to 20 nautical miles the sea is declared a buffer zone. 

Fishermen remove fish from a net at the Clifton beach in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Oct. 6, 2020. (AFP/File)

Local fishermen are not allowed to fish in zone-3 and foreign fishing vessels are not permitted to fish in the other two zones under the existing policy.
The Fishermen's Cooperative Society (FCS), which issued the permit to the Chinese trawlers, said the Chinese fishing vessels would not use the destructive bottom trawling method and instead help ‘upgrade’ Pakistan’s fishing industry and export.
Official figures put the annual value of Pakistan’s fish exports at roughly $450 million.
“Bringing Chinese trawlers for deep sea fishing is in line with the government’s deep-sea fishing policy and aimed at upgrading and modernizing fishing, besides providing job opportunities to local fishermen,” Abdul Berr, Chairman of the Fishermen's Cooperative Society, told Arab News.
“Around 3,500 fishermen will get employment opportunities with the arrival of the world’s latest fishing boats and modern small boats,” Berr said. 
He added: “First, 70 percent of the staff at trawlers and processing facilities will be local. There will be no fishing in provincial territorial waters. The trawlers will bring all their catch to Karachi where it will be processed in factories and then exported.”
Small local fishermen would receive modern fiber boats on ‘easy instalments,’ Berr said, a step towards replacing their obsolete boats.
But Sindh’s minister for livestock and fisheries, Abdul Bari Pitafi, said the mega fishing ships would wipe out sea-life, even if they were only operating in the federal government’s zone-3.
“We will...also oppose its [trawlers’] operations in zone-3 because they will just wipe out sea-life including the fish’s seed,” Pitafi told Arab News.
In 2016, a survey carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that more than 72 percent of the fish stock in Pakistan’s coastal areas had already declined.
“One trawler does a catch that is equal to a catch by 100 of our fishing boats,” Younus Khaskheli, a fisherman, said. “And their fishing net is the most dangerous one, because it hunts thousands of tons of fish.” 
Tens of thousands of fishing boats are registered in Pakistan, he said, with fishermen from Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Bangladesh fishing in these waters.
“Our sea stock will end; the country will lose the income of billions and our fishermen will become jobless,” Khaskheli said. “There won’t be any food left in the sea.”