Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region is frequently in the news these days, but not necessarily for its mouth-watering cherries and dried apricots. The much touted US $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will pass through this beautiful province in the north to reach Chinese-operated Gwadar port in the country’s south. While there is hope it will transform the economy and help bridge Pakistan’s power shortfall, CPEC has also triggered concerns that the local people might be left out of the gains.
To be built over the next several years, the 3,218 kilometre route will connect Kashgar in China’s western Xinjiang region to the port of Gwadar. Currently, nearly 80 per cent of China’s oil is transported by ship from the Strait of Malacca to Shanghai, a distance of more than 16,000 km, with the journey taking between two to three months. But once Gwadar begins operating, the distance would be reduced to less than 5,000 km.
But it does not necessarily have to be this way. According to Hunzai, the region has infinite water resources to tap.
“By building hydro power projects, Pakistan can sell clean energy to China and even use it for itself, the development consultant said. “If Bhutan can sell to India, why can’t we sell to China?” Hunzai poted out that the Chinese already taking the country’s national grid to its border province.
It made little sense to him that the Pakistan government wanted to buy 1,000MW of hydropower from Tajikistan under the Central Asia South Asia (CASA-1000) project and construct an expensive 750km transmission line when the resource was right there in the country’s own backyard.