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15 Nov 2022

Syed Fazl-e-Haider, The China Project

Pakistan: China-funded Gwadar port frustrates local residents as infrastructure promise falls short and concerns over livelihoods grow

"For locals, a China-funded port in Pakistan brings fears of being erased" 15 November 2022

Funded and operated by China, Pakistan’s port at Gwadar has been touted as a competitor to regional ports like Dubai in the UAE and Chabahar Port in Iran. But what started off as a small fishing town has now transformed into a securitized and segregated harbor settlement, whose economic benefits are not enjoyed by the local population. [...]

“I would say the problems have worsened with the development of Gwadar Port over the past two decades,” Kalsoom Baloch, another activist in Gwadar, told The China Project. Baloch previously participated in protests demanding rights for local residents in Gwadar. 

“The locals are anxious,” she said, and explained: 

Many of them depend on fishing to earn their livelihoods. Now their access to the sea has become more difficult due to certain security protocols set by Pakistani authorities. Locals do not generally meet the eligibility criteria, such as higher education, vast experience, and relevant skills, required for the key jobs in the Gwadar project. They are not against development, but they want their due representation in the process.


The local population currently gets little benefit from social welfare projects. The reality is that all the China-funded projects in the social sector are part of a larger plan to accommodate the new population, investors, and military division, according to Jan Baloch. He says that while there are some grandiose development schemes that could change the infrastructure and lifestyle in the port city, they will leave no place for locals, nor address their needs and concerns. [...]