Gwadar isn’t a ‘mega city’, it isn’t even a city yet!

Published: March 20, 2016
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Apart from natural landscapes and beaches, Gwadar has nothing PHOTO: ABDUL WALI

It’s Gwadar, Gwadar everywhere; on every newspaper, news-channel, on huge billboards in our major cities. Even the Army Chief, who is the most loved person of the country, was full of mesmerising words for Gwadar.

Unfortunately, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is full of controversies but whatever the route may be, whether western or eastern, it obviously starts from China and ends in Gwadar. It’s pretty obvious that building Gwadar can be a huge step in the prosperity of this country.

Brief history

The word Gwadar is derived from two Balochi words Gwat (Air) Darr (Door). The city’s importance is common knowledge considering how rich the location is historically; Gwadar has been the center of trade between the Indus Valley Civilisation and Iraq for years. Alexander the Great’s fleet ruled this city. In the 15th century, the Portuguese fleet, led by Vasco De Gama, tried to set the city on fire. Omani’s ruled the city for years, and during their tenure the Gwadar port was an active port. Forts built by Omani’s can be seen around the city even today. A majority of the population consisted, always, of fishermen.

So is Gwadar really the GWADAR that we see on our TV screens?

On the way from the Lahore airport to one of my friend’s place, I saw a huge billboard that said ‘X’* AL Gwadar on it and there were some huge buildings presented on it. I was awestruck; I have come across such boards many times in Gwadar but now even in Lahore? To be very honest, apart from natural landscapes and beaches, Gwadar has nothing.

Presently, Gwadar has no water, decent schools, hospitals, a college for girls, or even a single university let alone internet facilities; so, could it be a future mega city?

Yes, Gwadar has no college for girls; the girls have no choice but to study in the boy’s college in the evening shift. And yes, the so called ‘future mega city’ does not even have a single university! It’ll be foolish to say that locals will have great jobs in the future when the city hardly has a handful of university graduates. Not every family can afford to send their kids to Karachi, Islamabad or Lahore and if you’re a girl, things are going to be tougher for you.

We do, however, have a hospital. Tragically, no matter what ailment you suffer from, whether serious or not, you will, expectedly, be advised to have a proper checkup in Karachi. Honestly, I have no words for the well qualified doctors of my city.

The water crisis is under control at the moment, but just three or four months ago people were dying of thirst. However, even now, the water available in the city is salty. To make matters worse, the Tanker-mafia was selling a single tanker of water for Rs 14,000.

If a majority of the people in my town are fisherman, how are they expected to afford water when they earn a mere Rs 20,000 a month?

Gwadar has had a water crisis in the past but, with the increase in population, things are getting worse every year. We’ve been hearing about the millions being spent on desalination plants from years but we haven’t tasted a single drop of water from these stunning plants.

How long will we keep praying to God for rain and mercy?

While kids in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi or any other city in Pakistan, were in schools, ours stood with their mothers in never-ending queues carrying water containers in their hands. Unlike before, when ladies from my town remained at home, they are now required to leave. And that too, with their kids.

Why?

The reason is simple: more hands equals more water.

THIS is your so-called mega city.

Recently, one of my very close friends was appointed in the best government run school of the town. The things Yasir* shared are not easy to absorb. Yasir said,

“You know, I started teaching maths to third standard. They don’t even know what comes after thirty, not a single one of them. You cannot put the blame on these little angels. Their teachers should be blamed for this.”

Yasir added that most of the teachers go to their classes late and some of them don’t even bother. He said that some of the kids don’t even have proper shoes, while some of them have patches all around their uniforms. This makes it pretty obvious that they can’t afford private English medium schools.

We sit and blame the government for everything.

Is our respected prime minister expected to teach them what comes after 33?

These kids are so poor, how could you do this to them? What harm have they ever done to you?

For me, these teachers are among the most corrupt people in the country. They don’t attend to their civic duties and have the gall to enforce the ‘danda culture’. These kids are one of us. They are our future, and these instructors are criminals killing their own future. When will they realise that they are weakening their own roots?

Gwadar cannot be called a future mega city.

I do not think it can even be called a city.

We have nothing; nothing that a ‘city’ has. For our basic necessities we are forced to go to Karachi.

If you were wondering what Gwadar is like? This is as real as it gets. The one on TV is a fictitious illusion. We remain stuck in the past because we’re under developed in every way. Yet, we are told that this economic corridor is to help us. I will not even bother asking how it will help. My only question is, when?

There’s no questioning the beauty of Gwadar.

Our beaches are far better than any other beach in the country. The city is full of breathtaking landscapes. The sunsets have a beauty of their own. Our beaches are full of different sea birds, from seagulls to flocks of great white pelicans. And, trust me, you will find the best seafood in the world here.

Gwadar also has three forts that were built by the Omani’s and Portuguese during their times. For tourists there are great hotels with reasonable fares as well. Not only that, the locals of Gwadar are the most hospitable people you will ever meet. The city is very secure now and it’s truly worth a visit. Once you visit, I’m sure you will fall in love with it.

But you have to know, we are not a mega city. I do hope and pray to God, however, that one day Gwadar resembles the city in the billboards in Lahore. And I hope we don’t have to wait for the Pak-China economic corridor for that to happen. There have been people living in this area for centuries, and we have lived like this for centuries. It is about time the government did something to improve the situation here. Now let’s just hope it benefits the people of Gwadar too, not just the government and China.

* Names have been changed to protect the identities of the project and teacher in question.

All photos: Abdul Wali

Abdul Wali

Abdul Wali

The writer is a film and TV student of NCA. He's a travel photographer and freelancer who lives off coffee and music. Follow him on instagram at abdulwalibaloch (instagram.com/abdulwalibaloch/)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • IBN E ASHFAQUE

    Presently, Gwadar has no water, decent schools, hospitals, a college for girls, or even a single university let alone internet facilities; so, could it be a future mega city? Yes it will shape like Karachi where across the bridge all is available while the awam type of Pakistanis live beyond the bridge. Gawadar is like the rest of urban Pakistan except maybe for Islamabad and Lahore.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Although I have never been to Gwadar…..just recently my daughter and her family drove down to Gwadar and spent a day there. On return I asked her ‘ What was there in Gwadar ? ‘…..her answer was ‘ NOTHING….just nothing ‘ .Recommend

  • Sami

    I can only laugh at the history lesson here.
    Alexander the Great fleet did not land in Gwadar. There was no Gwadar at that time. It is more than 3000 years old event. Also Alexander came on foot after invading Old Persia and then after extending into modern Afghanistan he challenged Porus in Peruvia ( Modern Day Upper Punjab). Then afterwards Alexander had a fight with Raja Porus near Gujrat Punjab region that is known as the ultimate battles of that era. Alexander set up three cities in Punjab region. But Gwadar was never mentioned by anyone. History channel has many documentaries on this subject.

    Also Gwadar was uninhabited during the Indus Valley civilization’s time. Gwadar was never a part of Indus valley trade. Infact Indus Valley Civilization did not reach that place. Indus valley spread around Old Indus river. How come A place thousand miles away from Indus valley hub and that too thousands of years ago can act as a trade hub?. So how Gwadar was the center of trade of Indus valley and Iraq.?

    Moreover Gwadar was the part of Sultanate of Oman and was not even a part of Balochistan during the time of creation of Pakistan. Oman considered it a useless place and never made use of it as a port. Oman sold it to Pakistan at the throw away price because they did not see any future there.Recommend

  • cueball

    The cornerstone of CPEC is a big lie – anyone surprised? Makes you wonder why ET or any other newspaper has bothered to send a reporter to Gwadar – never wrote an article on why the port has never gone anywhere in 30 years – never wrote an article explaining the actual progress of Gwadar port. Answer – free press isn’t all that free in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Abdul Wali

    Sir, have you ever heard of Meeri Kalat? Or Princess of Hope? There’s a book named Makran by Dr. Hameed Baloch I think you should read it. He has given proper references so you can’t doubt it’s authenticity.
    With sincere apology, your last line proves that either you’ve never been to Mekran or you’ve never interacted with the locals.Recommend

  • Soul Speek

    Truly an eye opener! All this hungama over a port city that is non-existent at the moment. Its really strange that there isnt even a school for girl. How can any politician have the guts to call this a city and sell fake dreams.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Right except it should more 2000 yrs old event.Recommend

  • Varis

    “Infact Indus Valley Civilization did not reach that place.”

    This is not true. There were Indus valley sites near the region in South-West Balochistan. Search Sutkagan Dor and Sokhta Koh.

    As far as Alexander is concerned, you are right that he never occupied the region but the Author mentions “his fleet” and not Alexander himself. Seleucus Nicator, one of Alexander’s generals is mentioned in the link.Recommend

  • curious2

    Gwadar has been promoted at various times over the past 25 years – always ended up being a real estate scam. The issue that nobody wants to discuss is whether Gwadar makes any economic sense – Pakistan businesses have never needed additional port capacity and CPEC doesn’t even include an oil pipeline to China (the biggest item they import).

    Also – what’s the basis for saying Gwadar is going to be World Class port? That would require a throughput of about 7 million 20 foot containers – 20 plus shipping terminals – extensive railway/highway infrastructure and about 30,000 highly skilled employees. None of that exist or is even on the drawing board.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Learning from “true” historical facts is a conspiracy theory created by the west.

    Only stories from educated mullahs make any sense for the majority of pakistanis.Recommend

  • LS

    From what I have read about CPEC it is a transport/passenger corridor (Roads, Railways, Motorways) with a bunch of power plants spread across the area. Now these things will absolutely improve the following:
    – Goods and passenger transport infrastructure along with 21 stations being rebuilt.
    – Improve power situation in the country (Will also increase the pollution since majority of these power plans are burning low grade coal called lignite discovered in Thar.
    – It will also attract small business along to road to serve the travelers maybe a few malls that would definitely improve the economic situation of those traders and their employees.
    – Thus giving trader population enough opportunity and means to buy new houses or expand the existing ones.
    – It will also allow people to travel larger distances for job opportunities and instead looking maybe in hundreds of miles of radius they would be looking for job in thousands of miles of radius and reaching there in days they may reach there in hours.

    Assumptions:
    – There would be enough traffic between Gwadar and China to support these businesses unless these business are simply selling cheap Chinese goods and those would survive without question.

    Now questions I ask:
    – How will the Will these changes improve the conditions in all the cities it passes through?
    – Will people simply buy more because there are new roads and railway tracks?
    – How will it improve the civic amenities with these cities or build intra-city roads and pavements?
    – How does this improve the lives of a poor man because most of the building is being done by Chinese removing the possibility of local employment.

    Lastly:
    The interest rates on these project range from 1.5% to as high as 17% meaning unless there is enough traffic from Gwadar to China of the goods imported going to China.. I see a transport/passenger corridor having limited impact on daily lives of regular people. Now given the slow-down across the world in commodity market and china NOT importing as much as it used to I only see the impact of this 2 country specific transport corridor improving when the world commodity market improves and china again starts manufacturing at the same pace as it used to couple of years ago.Recommend

  • Contigo

    Dubai was like that 40-50 years ago, so were many Arabian cities like that before Oil.

    Pakistan’s on the right trajectory and the future of Gwadar and the country is looking up.Recommend

  • citizen

    really sad state of affairs . I always wanted to visit Gawadar but reading this , i am totally surprised . This so called goldmine is in shambles . Thnakyou for such detailed information . I hope Govt focus on improving situation thereRecommend

  • Owais

    Let’s try to highlight what we have instead of what we do not. The subject of this article is very negative in itself. If the purpose was to attract government’s attention to provide these basic facilities then the tone could have been different. Apparently, the writer was inclined on convincing investors to not make investments in the Gawadar project. Let’s try to make this a success. We, as nationals of this country, owe this responsibility to contribute positively in our country’s success.Recommend

  • Arzoona

    I don’t like the “tone”of this article. To be honest, I couldnt read it till the end because of the negative approach which has been used to explain things.
    We can only criticize our country and we don’t miss any chance to do so!
    We, as a nation, need to embrace more pro-pakistani approach and show some love to our land and people.Recommend

  • Muhammad

    I live in Karachi and there is no water supply in my area, so what? I still live in mega city and my life style.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ashraf

    If anyone want to see whats going on in Gwadar.. go visit photo gallery of http://www.facebook.com/gwadarportcity

    I dont know why writer of this artical cant see which u can see in real photos of gwadar. Recommend

  • Muhammad Ashraf

    To know reality of Gwadar visit http://www.facebook.com/gwadarportcityRecommend

  • Sulaiman Zakaria

    Seems like the author has no understanding of the international affairs and trade. Maybe the author is in impression of “Alladin ka Chiragh” but in actual its a long way ahead. As an example he can study the history of modern Dubai starting in late 1960 to 1990. And not to mention the port was already there before 1960s. Here in Gwadar we need to build from start. And who says its a Mega City? Real estate billboards? Its a mega city of “future” as per the official comments I hear every time. Development of people, hospitals, schools happens with money. And money is yet to be generated to make it mega. Its a simple logic. What a confusing article.

    I was searching ‘Gwadar’ in google news and this article came as the first result. Hatts off ! your blog is the top result for Pakistan’s mega project in Google news for people searching the keyword “Gwadar”. What a misery

    And how express tribute approved this blog which in itself having a lot of quality issues.Recommend

  • LS

    They discovered oil and with that came all the money they needed and continue to get. What natural resource Pakistan has discovered that will fuel the growth that Arabian cities have?Recommend

  • Kamath

    Just wait when COEC is completed. Then everything will change. There will be hotels, infrastructure, new township, railway, etc…….Recommend

  • Soul Speek

    Your link is all about what Gwadar will be in future. Nothing of sorts is happening in actual ground. I mean come on… It doesn’t even have a Girls’ school for heavens sake! Recommend

  • Fahri Uyghur

    Please help Uyghur Muslims in China
    #ChineseUyghurInTrouble
    https://www.facebook.com/muslimfromchina/Recommend

  • mks

    So why don’t you be quietRecommend

  • mks

    40-50 is too long. there was not much there even before year 2000. In many areas they were getting drinking water on back of Camel from far flung areas.
    How much foreign debts they have? Many times more than Pakistan. Who are the owner of those skyscrapers there, mostly foreigners or Abu DhabiRecommend

  • mks

    there are always enemies within….Recommend

  • hassan lodhi

    true friend.. i don’t know how shared this article.. they must be indian or anti pakistani.. Pakistan was not like this as in 1947.. but we are towards a new era… and Gawadar will be more then as Karachi.. just wait and watch mr Muhammad..Recommend

  • Em Eye Kay

    before karachi ,
    Thatta was being used as the port city , until the british came and built karachi .
    and now thatta s nothing but amongst one of the largest graveyards in the world .

    when CPEC is built ,
    the labor from punjab will revert to their areas since they will get employment in their own area ,

    same for the pushtoons
    same for sindhis ,

    and gradually , Karachi will be vacated from investment and people .
    Gwadar , if executes , properly , and when it does would tiny Karachi , in terms of terms of infrastructure , facilities , and opportunities .

    time is over for karachi , i myself live here ,

    karachi simply cannot accommodate latest infrastructures , mass transits , and technology , with all its geo-political limitations .

    the futures would ONLY that is built by a masterplan .
    be it bahria town karachi , Dha city karachi , or gwadar .

    in future only masterplans hold value , what is already built without a master plan and is increasingly crowded with problems has died struggling . so invest only in MASTERPLANS FOR FUTURE . rest will all be reduced to kachra like it is today .Recommend

  • Rahul Sharma

    nice to read your article. nice place to visit. Recommend

  • Jamal Al-Afghani

    The etymology is totally wrong. The word is a corruption of the Pashto word “Godar” which means land near water which roughly corresponds to the port near the ocean.Recommend