Gwadar isn’t a ‘mega city’, it isn’t even a city yet!
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.
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.
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
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.