MIRPUR (AJK)  -  The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project will open new avenues of socioeconomic progress, and bring economic boom in Pakistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir, said  Ch Saeed, the AJK minister for sports and culture.

“Azad Jammu & Kashmir State would also be one of the beneficiaries of the gigantic project since four projects have already been approved under CPEC -including Kohala and Karot Hydropower projects respectively in Muzaffarabad and Kotli districts, the Quadruple Expressway from Mansehra to Muzaffarabad, Mirpur and Mangla and the already-approved 9th Special Economic Industrial Zone to be set up in Mirpur,” said the minister  while speaking as chief guest at the Annual General Meeting of AJKCCI-turned-Mirpur Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

The AJK minister disclosed that the government of Pakistan had, under the Mangla Dam raising project, approved a grant of over Rs1.94 billion for the completion of the giant Mirpur-Islamgarh bridge over Mangla Dam lake through the repute chinese construction company.

“It will be the largest and state-of-the-art bridge (2.50 kilometer) over the scenic mega Mangla lake. It will open new avenues of tourism, trade and industry through reducing the distance between the adjoining cities of Mirpur and Islamgarh, the abodes of millions of UK-based Kashmiris expatriates,” the minister underlined.

Ch Saeed disclosed that the government had principally decided to complete the stagnant Rs7 billion mega projects of greater water supply and sewerage scheme through its resources. These projects, he underlined, were lying stagnant because of the massive corruption and bungling during the immediate past PPP-led AJK coalition regime of former Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed.

The outgoing president of the MCCI Ch Murtaza, newly elected President Sohail Shujah Mujahid, acting FPCCI President Ch Javed Iqbal, ex-president of Jammu Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry Zulfiqar Abbasi, ex-president Ch. Azeem Mushtaq,  ex-executive committee member Khalid Chaudhry and others also spoke on the occasion and highlighted the issues and bottlenecks in the way of industrial development in Azad Jammu & Kashmir.

Highlighting the broad-based healthy prospects of the arrival of CPEC in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, the minister Ch Saeed  continued that CPEC in AJK would not only be an opportunity for infrastructure development, energy and industry but also a catalyst for promoting ecotourism and establishing biological and wildlife corridors. Biodiversity sites along the Corridor will be preserved and developed, he said.

Azad Jammu & Kashmir, he underlined, was ideal for eco-tourism because that too is an emerging industry. “It is our responsibility to preserve our natural habitats with as much seriousness as we pursue industrialization. We are also striving to get a tourism corridor included in the framework of CPEC,” he added. With the advent of the proposed Mirpur special economic  industrial zone as an economic hub, Azad Jammu Kashmir would tap into the professional and technological experience of Chinese and Pakistani entrepreneurs, Ch Saeed said.

Elaborating the salient features of the CPEC and its upcoming unprecedented impacts on socio-economic progress of AJK, the minister said ,“Under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its affiliate - CPEC - China has undertaken to provide advanced and sophisticated technologies. The Governments of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir too would diligently make sure that this zone does not cause environmental degradation and in fact meets the highest environmental standards.”

The government, the minister said, was  exploring clean energy options in AJK. “Solar energy consumption is gaining ground and it is also necessary to identify wind corridors for generation of wind power or developing solar-wind hybrids,” he said.

He emphasised the need of highlighting,  adequately,  the concrete measures which  have been taken by Chinese and Pakistani planners and their corporate entities to incorporate environmental dimensions in CPEC’s land and marine projects.

He called for focusing to achieve the objectives of the project which we will have to develop an overall socioeconomic development culture. The AJK government, he said, is fully  committed to doing so.

Earlier, outgoing president of AJKCCI Ch Murtaza referred to the laurels, the chamber earned during his last one-year term in office towards the progress in industrial development in AJK in general and Mirpur particular. He also underlined the problems confronted by the local business community.

Newly elected MCCI President Sohail Shujah Mujahid unveiled his priorities to turn the Chamber into a vibrant institution for the speedy industrial development and progress of AJK in true perspective.