Sindh: Repercussions of CPEC Project for Indigenous Peoples Will Be Catastrophic
Photo Courtesy of Peter Morgan @Flickr
UNPO Member and Secretary General of the World Sindhi Congress, Mr Lakhumal Luhana, sheds a light on the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), focussing on the repercussions the project will have on the Sindhi population. Despite no consultation with any representative figure of Sindh, CPEC will pass through major urban and strategic areas of Sindh. In a context where the Sindh region produces the majority of Pakistan’s gas, oil and coal, the project will only exacerbate an already present trend of exploitation. In response to sharp criticism from not only Sindh but also other marginalized regions in Pakistan, such as Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, supporters of CPEC claim that the project will generate plenty of jobs, However, given that only 20 percent of people working in the gas, oilfields and seaports are actually Sindh, it is highly unlikely that these new employment opportunities will be allocated to them. Mr Lohano also points out how the increasing army personnel guarding the construction works will only intensify the already existing crackdown on the Sindh people. In addition to this, the Pakistani and Chinese army personnel and other people brought in to the region to work on the project will impact the unstable demography of the region – making the Sindh a minority in their own ancestral lands.
Below is an article published by the Asian Human Rights Commission:
There are numerous dimensions to CPEC, economic, geo-political and geo-strategic, environmental, sustainability, human rights, and regional and global security and peace. However, I will focus on its implication for the Sindhi people and why we oppose it.
According to information available in the public domain, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) comprises thousands of kilometers of roads, railway networks, tunnels, deep sea developments, terminals, pipelines and industrial zones. CPEC started out with a budget of $46 billion but has increased to $54 billion in the last four months. An increase of about $2 billion per month! Is that all? The answer is we do not know. For example, when questions are asked in the Pakistani Senate about further details of CPEC, the answer comes back that they are confidential. Details of the project covering dimensions, implications and proportions is shrouded in secrecy. It is like some sort of war exercise rather a development project. There is a complete lack of transparency. Strangely enough, many developments are being carried out without much publicity or secrecy. It is not part of anything else but the CPEC design of rapid port expansion and construction of additional terminals at Karachi, increasing capacity in terms of number and size of ships.
The matters to be noted in terms of Sindh in the context of CPEC include:
The proposed road network passes through almost all major urban and strategic areas of Sindh.
$33 billion is earmarked for energy generation, which is more than 60% of the $54 billion overall budget. Out of 15 currently approved projects, 8 are planned for Sindh. More than 75% of the electricity will be generated from coal of the Thar area of Sindh. In a literal sense, Sindh will be the power house of CPEC.
CPEC will generate about 2.3 million new jobs. Due to lack of transparency, it is hard to judge just how many jobs will be created in Sindh. But, based on the proposed projects it is estimated that at least one third of the jobs will be based in Sindh. Translated, this means about 800,000 to 0.8 million jobs.
Other related issues include:
Zulfiqarabad is a proposed megacity that encompasses the entire coastal area of Sindh spread over more than 5200 sq. km. It is being built with help from China. Currently, no other megacity of this size exists in the world today.
Sindh is in a most precarious demographic situation. This is a result of the systematic, aggressive efforts to convert Sindhis into a minority in their thousand-year old motherland. According to the Sindh government, in the capital city of Karachi alone, there are over four million illegal immigrants.
Let me provide you with a brief historical overview of our experience of development in Sindh. Officially, Sindh produces more than 70% of the wealth in Pakistan. Sindh produces 72% of the gas and 55% of the oil. Sindh has the 6th largest coal deposits in the world that constitutes over 95% of the coal in Pakistan. It is currently the only operational seaport, generating almost twice more electricity and 50% more grains and cotton than is required. More than 70% of government taxes are collected from Sindh. And what does Sindh get in return?
In the gas and oilfields and seaport jobs in Sindh, Sindhis comprise only about 20%.
75% of Sindhis live in poverty
71% Sindhi families suffer from malnutrition
2 million eligible school children have not been to school
Literacy rate among Sindhi people is less than 40%
Diseases in Sindh are the highest in Pakistan. 25% of the population suffer from one of the following illnesses: hepatitis, tuberculosis, water born diseases and cancer.
More than 80% of the people do not have access to safe drinking water
In spite of generating electricity in excess of our needs, cities, towns and villages remain drowned in darkness on an average of 12-18 hours per day—with the electricity being diverted to Punjab
As a result of an onslaught of developments, 8 million acres of land was distributed to people from outside the area.
About 40% of Sindhi youth remain unemployed, while jobs are awarded to people also from outside the area.
The burden of disease in areas where oil and gas is extracted is the highest. This is attributed to no regard for environmental considerations and no governmental prjects to better their living situations.
In brief, due to systematic exclusion of Sindhis from development, plans for converting Sindhis into a minority plus ruthless exploitation of their resources has wrought havoc on the Sindhi people. Instead of improvement, all indicators for social development have gradually and systematically deteriorated during the past 70 years of Pakistani history.
With this backdrop, the Sindhi nation believes that CPEC will bring further misery and destruction rather any real social development. The following consequences are anticipated.
The security of all CPEC routes will be monitored by army personnel with a check point every five kilometres. Satellite surveillance will be used as well. We believe this entire security network will be used to watch and further crush the Sindhi people’s historic, democratic and human rights movement.
As mentioned above, 75% of electricity will be generated from Sindh coal. On the one hand, coal extraction will destroy the environment, ecosystems and habitats in a pristine natural area. On the other hand, burning coal as a fuel will have emissions. Considering the record of Pakistani and Chinese environmental controls, we can expect further deterioration in air, water, and soil with new diseases surfacing.
Based on historical experience and data, 80% of jobs will be given to people from outside the area. This will further destabilise the demography with the real possibility of turning the Sindhis into a minority. Not to be wondered at, hundreds of Chinese have already started working in Sindh on various projects including driving waste disposal vehicles.
The proposed megacity, Zulfiqarabaad, will become more viable resulting in permanent displacement of indigenous Sindhis from their homeland.
Sindhi people have not been consulted in the CPEC process at all. Sindhis believe it is a project that will further ruthlessly exploit their people’s resources. It will marginalise them, destroy them, push them further into poverty, disease, disempowerment and possibly into a minority status. The international community already understands that this is not only an economic corridor. CPEC is a tool for geo-strategic control which will destabilise regional and global security for decades. If they want to stop this havoc from happening, they need to help Sindhis and other oppressed peoples in Pakistan to face the onslaught and fight back.