Drinking water shortage in Gwadar is reportedly extremely severe with bottled water being sold at a price well above the available rates in other parts of the country. At present, trucks escorted by military vehicles are supplying water to Gwadar.
Not only are these insufficient to meet the demand, these are also very expensive. Gwadar port was purchased for 3 million dollars from Oman by the government of Pakistan after the United States Geological Survey concluded that it is a suitable site for a port. It took 44 years for the government of Pakistan to complete a formal proposal for a deep sea port at Gwadar (1992) and for construction of Phase-I to commence another 10 years (which began in 2002 and was completed by 2007) and included 3 multipurpose berths with a capacity of bulk carriers of 30,000 deadweight tonnage and container vessels of 25000 DWT.
The Phase-II is currently under way; it envisages 4 container berths along 3.2 kms of shoreline, one bulk cargo terminal, one grain terminal, two oil terminals, an approach channel of 14.5-meter draught, and a floating liquefied natural gas terminal with a capacity of 500 million cubic feet of gas per day. And in the longer term, the government plans to enhance the capacity of the port to build 100 berths to handle 400 million tons of cargo per year. In other words, the project is of long standing and while it envisages road network linking it with the rest of the country as well as an airport yet failure to take account of the increase in demand for water as the population rises reflects the need to take urgent mitigating decisions by the government of the day.
The question as to what project our governments, past and present, envisaged to solve Gwadar’s water problem as it was transformed from a mainly rural community (5000 people 16 years ago to 0.12 million today and their number is expected to rise to 2 million in the next five years) to a thriving warm water deep sea port can be simply answered in the negative. The Ankara Kaur dam has dried up. Although the Mirani dam can somehow reduce water shortages, it cannot resolve the crisis.
Another example of failure to deal with existing issues in mega projects is the focus of the Sharif administration on enhancing electricity generation capacity in the country which, at the time it took over power in 2013, was estimated at over 20000MW.
However, this capacity did not translate into actual supply for several reasons, including system’s inability to transmit more than 16000MW because of a degraded transmission system. The third-party audit carried out by the Asian Development Bank at the insistence of the then Finance Minister, Shaukat Tarin, recommended that the government first ensures transmission of existing potential supply to the network prior to contracting expensive rental power plants and, one would assume, prior to launching expensive power projects. The PPP-led coalition government as well as the current dispensation has ignored this logical advice.
To conclude, it is critical for a government severely strapped for cash to undertake an in-depth analysis that identifies the logical sequencing of projects and not be premised only on a desire to launch a mega project for political considerations.
There is, therefore, a need to ensure that the mega project, once launched and completed, would achieve the desired results which requires dealing with all major lacunae in the delivery of the social or physical infrastructure project. That water is so scarce and therefore so precious in Gwadar is a fact that has found its best expression in high incidence of water theft.
In this town, people lock up their water tanks with steel locks! -Business Recorder