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Prime Minister Imran Khan performing the ground-breaking of new Gwadar International Airport project in Gwadar, a port city on the southwestern coast of Balochistan, Pakistan. Image Credit: Courtesy: PID

Dubai: The new Gwadar International Airport will be the second facility in Pakistan to cater to big aircraft, including the world’s largest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380.

Currently, only Islamabad International Airport, which opened last year, can cater to the A380. Other big airports, including the ones in Lahore and Karachi, are not equipped to handle this behemoth.

The new Gwadar airport will have the international status and it will be run under an “Open Skies” policy.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Gwadar International Airport on Friday.

“What a pleasure it is to be in Gwadar. In the coming months, years, Gwadar would be, I see, as engine of growth for Pakistan,” Imran said while addressing at the ground breaking ceremony in Gwadar, in the country’s southwest, on the Indian Ocean coast.

Three-years construction plan

The construction of the airport will be completed within three years at the cost of US$256million.

Unlike other projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are operating under concessional loans, the Airport is planned under a Chinese grant.

The airport will also be the biggest in Pakistan at an area of 4,300 acres.

It will be the biggest airport of Pakistan. In comparison to other airports like Karachi Airport (3,700 acres), Islamabad International Airport (3,600 acres), Lahore Airport (2,800 acres), the Gwadar Airport will be built on 4,300 acres.

The airport is one of several development projects in Gwadar worth $690 million which the Chinese government is financing as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

The ground breaking ceremony of the airport was also attended by Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing besides a large number of ministers, officials and Chinese workers, according to APP, the official news agency of Pakistan.

China’s grant for the airport

The Chinese government would assist Pakistan for construction of the airport under Chinese Grant Assistance.

The project is part of overall infrastructure development of Balochistan. It would be developed as a green-field facility with all modern facilities for safe operation.

The project would comprise a modern terminal building with cargo terminal having initial handling capacity of 30,000 tons per year.

On this occasion, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed for construction of Pakistan and China Vocational Training Institute and Pak-China Friendship Hospital.

Prime Minister Imran thanked the Chinese Ambassador for the grant given by the Chinese government for the airport.

Benefits to local people

He categorically said any development would be of no use unless it benefited the local people.

He said in the past, the locals were ignored while executing the development projects in Balochistan. He said gas worth billions of rupees was extracted from Sui but it could not change the living standard of the local people.

He said it was pleasing that the capacity of the hospital in Gwadar would be enhanced and a vocational training institute would also help create employment opportunities.

Prime Minister Imran announced to launch Insaf Sehat Card (health card) to provide health insurance cover worth Rs720,000 to every family.

He said previously power was being transmitted from Iran, but now the government had decided to link the area with national grid.

Desalination plant

A desalination plant would also be set up in the city and under Clean and Green Pakistan, one million saplings would be planted. Besides, a solid waste management system would also be established to protect the area from pollution.

He said following the models of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, the government had decided to recycle water in Gwadar to water the plants.

He told the gathering that Gwadar and Quetta would be linked through railways as it was the best travel mode but unfortunately Pakistan had been lagging behind in this sector.

Rail links

He said Chinese support was being sought to upgrade railway lines as China had the most advanced rail system. A high-speed rail link would cut travel time bewteen Karachi and Lahore to within four hours, instead of 18 hours by car, or 21 hours by bus at the moment.

Khan said having located at an ideal location and being well connected, Gwadar’s development would be the development of whole of Pakistan.

During the development process of the new airport, the existing airport’s capacity would also be enhanced by making it capable of transporting big aircrafts.

With the establishment of new international airport, the Gwadar city would become hub of aviation industry and it would also help elevating the CPEC framework.

CPEC Project

The $56 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the most important parts of the China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative for a stronger trade connectivity in the world.

FILE PHOTO: A container is loaded on to the first Chinese container ship to depart after the inauguration of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor port in Gwadar, Pakistan November 13, 2016. REUTERS/Caren Firouz/File Photo Image Credit: Reuters

OBOR is China’s ambitious project to revive the ancient Silk route for trade connecting China, Central Asia and Europe by developing three main corridors via southern, northern and central Xinjiang, which links China with Pakistan, Russia, India and Europe.

The mega investment project that connects Pakistan with China is called CPEC — and it is the most significant part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

China has made commitments to invest around $56 billion (Dh205.5 billion) in CPEC involving development deals, which is equivalent to roughly 20 per cent of Pakistan’s annual GDP.

CPEC is believed to be China’s biggest-ever investment overseas to build a 3,218km route by 2030, consisting of highways, railways and pipelines that will connect Pakistan’s Gwadar Port to Xinjiang province of China.

In total, the economic corridor project aims to add some 17,000 megawatts of electricity generation at a cost of around $34 billion.

The rest of the money will be spent on transport infrastructure, including upgrading the railway line between the port of Karachi and the northwest city of Peshawar.

Key corridor

Development of Gwadar port, which would provide Beijing a firm and long-term foothold in the Indian Ocean, is an important part of the CPEC as this economic corridor will behave as a channel for the novel Maritime Silk Route that imagines connecting three billion people in Asia, Africa and Europe.

CPEC aims to revive the earliest Silk Road with an emphasis on infrastructure, and establishes the strategic structure of bilateral cooperation.

In addition to development of Gwadr port, the project will also see infrastructural development including roads and railway networks and industrial development along the CPEC route.