The initiatives in the domain of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) undertaken by China Overseas Ports Holding Company (COPHC) and other Chinese firms in Gwadar are appreciable and are aimed at the right direction, however, effective development communication and positive engagement with local communities is critical for the effectiveness and long-term success of these projects. All stakeholders should devise a mechanism for an integrated socio-economic development strategy and ensure inclusion of the hopes and aspiration of the inhabitants of Gwadar vis-à-vis CPEC.
This was the crux of a two-day media conclave and roundtable conference titled ‘CSR Initiatives in Gwadar (The Gateway to CPEC)’ co-organized by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad and the University of Gwadar in collaboration with COPHC, Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) and Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) in the strategic port town.
Speaking on the occasion, Naseer Khan Kashani, chairman, Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) stressed the importance of bringing the locals together through CSR.
“We must prioritize people over infrastructure development. Drinkable water and electricity is the top priority of the authorities in Gwadar”, he stated.
Kashani said a desalination plant of about 1.2 million gallons would become operational in six to eight months that would provide drinkable water for the locals.
Moreover, the newly inaugurated state-of-the-art Pak-China Vocational & Technical Training Institute will provide three years’ training to local youth, which is a big contribution by our Chinese friends, he added.
“Chinese authorities have also recently provided 3,000 solar panels to the poorest of the poor in Gwadar for the provision of electricity,” he informed.
While delivering the keynote speech, Zhang Baozhong, Chairman COPHC spoke at length about the experiences of his seven-year stay in Gwadar.
“We are cognizant of the fact that Gwadar deserves more rapid development to live up to the expectations of the local people. There is no denying the fact that it has developed much during the past seven years”, he remarked.
He stated three reasons for the promising prospects of Gwadar: the cooperation of the Gwadar people, its vast resources, and its strategic location.
“The inhabitants of Gwadar deserve respect and development according to their rightful demands”, Mr. Baozhong underscored.
“We are sending 20 students to China on scholarships every year. We have been running a primary school here for the last five years and soon we will construct a secondary school as well. More than 6000 solar panel units have been distributed among the people of Gwadar so far, and around 500,000 trees have been planted,” Shahzad Sultan, Country Head Marketing of COPHC informed while providing details of the CSR initiatives.
Chairman IPS Khalid Rahman highlighted the concept of CSR and elements that can improve the lives of the local inhabitants.
“We must have solution-oriented recommendations, not problem-oriented,” he said adding that positive thinking and improvement in governance will bring a huge change in the life of the people of Gwadar.
“CSR activities do not mean spending a share of your profit, it’s about creating an environment which is not harmful for the society in any way,” he added.
Professor Dr. Abdul Razzaq Sabir, Vice Chancellor, University of Gwadar, in his welcome address earlier appreciated the initiatives of IPS for identifying challenges in the area.
He said giving back to the society is the biggest responsibility of corporate sector. Working on development of human resources should be the biggest priority of the government and private sector. As Gwadar is expanding after development of the port, it is important to learn from China’s experience and expertise through student exchange program. “We must train our youth to become productive elements of Gwadar.”
He was of the view that CSR must be defined in local perspective. Local issues could be considered to resolve people’s genuine and basic issues and problems through CSR initiatives.
He emphasized that engaging local community and civil society could result in better planning, befitting solutions and better implementation with local wisdom and participation.
Dr. Rashid Aftab, director Riphah Institute of Public Policy (RIPP) commented that reservations of locals must be addressed with evidence-based data sharing with all relevant stakeholders.
Jawad Akhtar Khokhar, advisor, maritime affairs, Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, earlier gave a detailed overview of the development projects in Gwadar under various modalities and highlighted the CPEC projects in Gwadar worth $2.1 billion so far.
He said so far three projects worth $314 million have been completed. These projects included Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan, physical infrastructure of Gwadar Port and Free Zone Phase-1, and Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute. Another seven projects worth $1.44 billion are under implementation process. These projects include Eastbay Expressway, which is 98 per cent complete; facilities of fresh water treatment, water supply and distribution, which are 70 per cent complete; New Gwadar International Airport; Pak-China Friendship Hospital Gwadar; infrastructure of Gwadar Free Zone Phase-II; 300 MW coal power plant and 1.2 million gallons’ desalination plant.
Khokhar said under the short-term strategy the prioritized projects include provision of water in three months and electricity in five months for Gwadar, Trading Corporation of Pakistan has been authorized to import one-third cargoes at Gwadar; and completion of M-8 motorway.
Highlighting long-term strategy, he said the government is aiming to build LNG and POL terminals at Gwadar port and ensure availability of electricity, water and gas to enable phase-2 expansion of the port.
Dolat Khan, registrar, University of Gwadar and Arsalan Ali, Head of Investments, Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) also spoke on the occasion.
It may be mentioned that the media conclave and roundtable conference was attended by a number of senior journalists and academics from Karachi, Islamabad and Gwadar. The delegates also visited China-Pakistan Vocational and Technical Training Institute and other sites under CSR to witness the pace of progress. They interacted with the local students and teachers to observe their views.