KARACHI          -        A 105-kilometer long railway line will be laid from Chorr to Islamkot to transport coal from Thar to Port Qasim and upcountry, apart from the installation of 1,320 MW power plant in Thar Coal Block-VI under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)-related projects.

The was decided at a meeting held here at the CM House on Friday between Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Murad Ali Shah and CPEC Authority (CPECA) Chairman General (r) Asim Saleem Bajwa.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Energy Imtiaz Shaikh, P&D Chairman Mohammad Waseem, PSCM Sajid Jamal Abro, Secretary Energy Musadiq Khan.

General Bajwa was assisted by Energy Specialist at CPEC Authority Yasir Arafat and Infrastructure Specialist Muzamil Zia.

CPECA Chairman Gen (r) Asim Bajwa told the chief minister that the Chinese president was expected to visit Pakistan between May and June this year; therefore all the formalities and documentation of the CPEC-related projects should be completed by then.

The chief minister said that three projects of Sindh related to CPEC, Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), China Special Economic Zone Dhabeji and Keti Bandar had already been approved. He added that only the finalization of their financial mechanism was pending.

Talking about the KCR, Murad said that framework agreement between Pakistan and Chinese Planning Commission was in the making. “Both sides, China and Pakistan are close to signing the concessional agreement,” the chief minister said, and added that Pakistan Railways (PR) and Sindh government had also agreed on handing over the Right of Way at common corridor between ML-1 and KCR.

General Bajwa said that KCR was on top of the CPECA priorities.

He told the CM that he would pursue the already approved projects with the Chinese authority so that work on them could be started at the earliest.

He said that KPT had become one of the most loaded ports, therefore a plan had been worked out to construct an expressway; right from the sea to Malir Expressway. The chief minister said that Keti Bandar was also an important port from the strategic point of view, and could serve as an alternative for the KPT.

CPECA chairman said that in order to transport Thar coal to Port Qasim and upcountry, a 105-km long railway track would be laid from Chorr to Islamkot. “From Karachi up to Chorr there is a main railway line,” he said.

Dhabeji Economic Zone

The chief minister said that he had allotted 1,530 acres of land for China Special Economic Zone at Dhabeji. He added that Dhabeji had various advantages such as that it had access to Port Qasim, which would enable raw material import and finished goods export without incurring major inland transportation costs, and also saving time.

Murad said that Dhabeji zone had also an access to Jinnah Terminal, which was hardly 35 kilometers via the National Highway, enabling safe travel of foreign workers and management personnel.

It has also direct access to National Highway enabling the transportation of goods to upcountry and Central Asian nations utilizing the national Trade Corridor.

Murad said that the project had been approved at the ECNEC meeting, and it has also committed to provide services such as electricity and gas. The KE would provide 250 MW electricity at doorstep of Dhabeji Zone with an estimated cost of Rs4 billion. The planning commission has also approved the PC-I prepared by Sindh Investment Department, he said. He added that 10 MGD water and 13.5 mmcfd of gas would be also provided to the zone.

Keti Bandar

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the Keti Bandar was located about 107 km from Thatta city and 150 km from Karachi via Gharo which is very promising in terms of future prospects. “The Keti Bandar Project is an important part of his government’s strategy towards developing the Energy sector,” he said.

He disclosed that a private firm has been engaged to conduct technical and financial feasibility study of the project in December 2019 and the financial feasibility was almost completed and report submitted by the end of this month.

These studies are in three phases. The first phase is the technical feasibility for setting up 1320 MW power plant, railway line from Thar to Keti Bandar, power evacuation to national grid, construction of coal jetty and allied infrastructure. Second phase consists of the bid management and third phase is for transaction advises.

Other Projects: The other CPEC related projects came under discussion between the chief minister and the chairman CPEC Authority were two major potential projects based on Thar discussed on the 9th JCC meeting held on November 5, 2019.

The first project is coal to Liquid Engineering Plan based on Thar coal at Thar. The second project is Thar Block-IV for coal gasification for fertilizer production.

It was pointed out in the meeting that the combined designed urea production capacity of urea firms in Pakistan was at 6,447KMT per annum while they are operating at 5700 KMT per annum in 2018. Reason for low capacity utilization was reduced availability of natural gas.

The combined natural gas needs for the urea plant is 775 million std. cubic feet (MMCFD) of which 154 or 20 percent is coming from RLNG in 2018.

The natural gas needs for urea is projected to 8300 mmcfd in 2028 whereas domestic gas will be only 2000 mmcf, thus the LNG component would reach 72 percent of the total needs. At this, Gen Asim Bajwa said that therefore we would have to increase our reliance on Thar coal power generation, Thar coal gasification and Thar Coal based diesel that would help in maintaining our energy, food security and reduce external crisis. 

Appreciating General Bajwa’s opinion and support, Murad said that this would help in improving balance sheet of our national organizations which has become red due to circular debt and external crisis. Bajwa said that he would visit Thar soon and then fly to China to finalise CPEC-related approved and new projects.