ISLAMABAD - Federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal has made it clear that only consensus-oriented hydro projects on Indus River will be included in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) umbrella project aimed to avoid controversy.

To a query about inclusion of controversial Kalabagh Dam Project to the CPEC portfolio, the Minister said that they will not add any controversial project , which has a few financial benefits, but disturb the provincial harmony or hurt the federation in the long run.

He expressed these views while addressing a post 6th Joint Coordination Committee press conference on the CPEC here Wednesday. In a major breakthrough, the 6th JCC agreed to form a special group on water storage and consider the Bhasha Dam for inclusion in the CPEC umbrella project .

While briefing on the decisions taken by the 6th JCC held on December 29 in China, the minister said to meet the energy demand of Gwadar city, the JCC agreed to start work on 300MW coal-based power plant at Gwadar city before March 31. “It was also agreed in principle to start work on a water desalination plant and its completion would be interconnected with the power plant as it required a huge amount of electricity for its operations,” he said.

The coal-based power project will be completed in two and half years which would help desalination of water in the city. The plant has the capacity to purify five million water gallons per day. Besides, the minister said that the power plant will not only meet growing electricity demand of the city but for the supply of surplus electricity it will be connected to the national grid.

The minister said the 6th JCC meeting was a major success in transferring the CPEC projects into the next phase. Ahsan Iqbal further said that the meeting also decided to finalise the long term plan of the CPEC by March 31, 2017. There will be consultation among all the stakeholders for finalisation of the long term plan.

The CPEC project worth more than $50 billion has now become the largest portfolio where number of new projects relating to energy, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture and socio-economic development has been included , the minister said.

He informed that the Prime Minister will invite the leadership of all the political parties and will brief them about the CPEC projects.

To a query regarding the energy projects, the minister said that joint energy working group is meeting in February which will approve two energy projects related to Gilgit-Baltistan. The minister said that the prime minister had directed to start work on two power projects in Gilgit-Baltistan to end energy crisis in the area, he added. Overall, he said,  around 5000MW from the CPEC portfolio projects will be added to the national grid by next year.

The minister said that water is one of the biggest problem faced by Baluchistan, therefore it has been decided to add pat feeder canal to the CPEC projects. Chiniot Iron Ore, Kitty Bandar, Gilgit-Chitral-Chakdara Road, Mirpur-Muzafarabad-Mansehra road will also be included in the CPEC related projects.

It was also agreed that to accelerate the development of Gwadar, the project of Gwadar Smart City will be started soon. Responding to a question, he said Gwadar city would be built according to the master plan. He further said that it was also agreed to enhance the capacity of Gwadar hospital from 50 to 150 beds.

He said the participation of chief ministers of all provinces in the meeting sent a strong message to the world that the whole Pakistani nation was united on successful completion of CPEC .

He said the participation of chief ministers also helped in including a number of new projects in the CPEC framework which would help transforming lifestyles of people living in far-flung areas of the country.

Talking about other CPEC projects agreed in JCC, the minister said that a project of establishing new transmission line from Faisalabad to Lahore and to Matiari had also been approved.

The minister said the JCC also approved rail-based mass transit projects in all four provincial capitals, including Greater Peshawar Mass Transit, Karachi Circular Railway and Quetta Mass Transit while Orange Line Lahore project had already been included in the CPEC framework.

He said all four provinces had proposed inclusion of two new projects and one industrial zone in the CPEC which were accepted by both sides.

The minister said the JCC approved the establishment of industrial zones in different parts of the country including one each in all provinces and one each in Fata, AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).The industrial zones will be established in the areas including Rashakai, KP, Bostan Balochistan, Pakistan china economic zone Sheikhupura Punjab, Bhimber Kashmir, Mackpondas Gilgat-Bultistan, Mohmand Marble city FATA, Dhabajy Sindh.

The meeting also accorded approval to the $8 billion project of upgrading ML-1 Peshawar-Karachi railway track, he added. Chinese delegation will visit Pakistan during current month to finalise the financing matters of ML-1 Peshawar to Karachi railway project , the minister added.

Ahsan Iqbal said the JCC agreed to include three new projects of the roads network projects in the CPEC framework. The projects include Khuzdar-Basima Road project , Dera Ismail Khan-Zohb project of western route and a missing section of Thakot-Havelian. The construction of road from Nokandi to Mashkhel has also included in CPEC project which will increase the interconnectivity of different areas of Balochistan with CPEC .

He said it was also agreed in the meeting to start work in Eastbay Expressway and an international airport in Gawadar by first quarter of current year.

He said both sides also agreed to enhance people to people contact and jointly make feature films and dramas to enhance understanding of each other culture. The minister hoped that soon Chinese will be the second national language of Pakistan and vice versa.