Balochistan govt report says eastern CPEC route ‘unfeasible’


A report prepared by the Balochistan government says that the federal government is artificially inflating the cost of the China-Pakistan economic corridor by preferring a route that passes through Punjab and Sindh rather than Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
The report, titled “China Pakistan Economic Corridor: The Route Controversy”, addresses what Quetta feels is Islamabad’s lack of consistency on the matter, and its failure to take into account the needs and desires of all federating units of the country.
However, Federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal claims that the Balochistan government report is one-sided and did not take into account the views of the main stakeholder in CPEC: the federal government.
According to a report in the Express Tribune, the Balochistan government’s report was prepared by the chief minister’s Policy Reform Unit, headed by economist Kaiser Bengali. It analyses the viability of the three CPEC routes based on three parameters: population density, total area under cultivation along the routes and total production of four major crops. These parameters become the base for determining the cost of land acquisition and displacement of population, the socio economic benefits and the environmental impact.
Pakistan has identified three routes for Chinese cargo: the eastern alignment (passing mainly through central Punjab and Sindh), the central route (passing partly through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and hitherto unconnected parts of Punjab and Sindh) and the western alignment (passing through the relatively underdeveloped areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan).
The provincial government claimed that “despite denials the route has been changed to pass through central Punjab”, Islamabad is primarily focusing on the eastern corridor.
According to the report, the districts along the preferred eastern route are the most densely populated, having large swathes of land under cultivation and is the main source of production of four major crops. All these factors will increase the construction cost. By comparison, the western route is thinly populated and the land is mainly barren.
The comparison between the three routes implies that the eastern route is economically unviable, claims the report.
By selecting the eastern route, the government is trading off the current security risks with provincial discord and political instability in the future, the report stated.
However, Ahsan Iqbal said that the central route was the shortest one. “The eastern alignment part of Peshawar-Karachi motorway serves the major markets, industrial areas and most populated centres of the country,” Iqbal told the paper. He said the CPEC concept is not to create a “container-in, container-out” economy but rather help make the country a regional manufacturing hub.
The report argues that the pre-existing sections are likely to save time and cost are not tenable, as most sections will have to be widened and re-laid to cater to the volume and load of the traffic.