CPEC is the flagship venture under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed that his government would complete the ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at “any cost” as the USD 60 billion projects are the culmination of the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan. Gwadar port is one of the focal points. China is investing heavily in the Balochistan region under the CPEC.
As CPEC has moved into its second phase in Pakistan, a planned “Pak-China Friendship Green Park” in Gwadar would be gradually built to complement the distinctive cultural landscape in Pakistan.
Zhaang Baozhong, the Chairman of the China Overseas Ports Holding Company (COPHC) said the company in collaboration with the local people of Gwadar are to build a dynamic Gwadar port with the stronger economy and a better environment for all.
COPHC are the current holder of the concession agreement for Gwadar Port and Gwadar Free Trade Zone and Gwadar Marine Services. This means they effectively control the port and also happenings in the free zone.
According to a report published by China Economic Net (CEN), COPHC are involved in a new initiative called the Pak-China Friendship Green Park, which will mean the cultivation of a new ecology surrounding Gwadar. This is done with the cooperation of the sister city, Puyang in Henan Province, China.
The park covers an area of 60-acres and is located on the south side of the China-Pakistan Friendship Road which also leads to the port. The park is laid under the Hill Koh-e-Batil.
Gwadar is a hot desert climate, characterized by little precipitation and high variation between summer and winter temperatures. Serious soil salinization has led to a low survival rate of plants. Faced with these difficulties, the COPHC has made great efforts to transform the ecological environment of Gwadar by improving the coverage of plantation in this area, and it has successfully planted hundreds of tropical tree species that can adapt to high temperature, salt and alkali, wind and sand, and draught.
Zhang Baozhong also shared the plan to make Gwadar the single largest contributor to Pakistan’s GDP in seven years after the Pakistan government finally granted it a 23-year income tax holiday and other exemptions for the Chinese businesses to be set up at the Gwadar Free Zone in Balochistan province.
“I believe Gwadar will be the largest contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP) growth in seven years,” said Zhang, adding that 95 percent of the production in the Gwadar Free Zone would be exported.”
With Gwadar Free Zone plan completed and built over a four-phase span for the next four years, it is expected to generate 47,000 jobs for local people, and boost its annual sales expected to top USD 1 billion.
So far, 41 investors have come forward to invest around $500 million in Gwadar Free Zone in the first phase. These industries are being set up in sectors of logistics, edible oils, piping, and halal food.
Zhang Baozhong said the multi-million USD investment would create 5,000 jobs in phase one alone, adding that the free zone developer had made it binding for the investors to complete the physical infrastructure in six months and start production within one year. The port operator will also promote advanced technology-based industries within the Gwadar Free Zone.