CPEC to bring economic revolution: Masood

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MIRPUR (AJK), July 22 (APP): President Azad Jammu &
Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan Saturday said China-Pakistan
Economic Corridor (CPEC) would ultimately bring about an
economic revolution in Pakistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir.
He was addressing a seminar titled ‘Mainstreaming
Environment in CPEC Projects – Special Economic Zone
Mirpur,’ hosted by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
at a local hotel.
Masood Khan said Azad Jammu & Kashmir State would
also be the beneficiary of the gigantic project since
four projects have been approved under CPEC – including
Kohala and Karot Hydropower projects respectively in
Muzaffarabad and Kotli Districts, the Quadruple M Expressway
from Mansehra to Muzaffarabad-Mirpur to Mangla and a Special
Economic Industrial Zone to be set up in Mirpur.
Highlighting the broad-based prospects of CPEC in Azad
Jammu & Kashmir, President Masood said it 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 added.
He said Azad Kashmir is 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, ” he added.
“We are also striving to get a tourism corridor included
in the framework of CPEC,” he said.
AJK President said he is also conscious of the environmental
aspects of the four projects approved under the CPEC.
Masood Khan said that AJK was building its own cascades
down the Jhelum, Neelam and Poonch Rivers and their tributaries.
The construction of the Neelum-Jhelum, Jagran, Patrind, Kohala,
Mahal, Azad Pattan, Karot and Gulpur hydropower projects will
initiate an energy revolution. These projects would also throw
up environmental challenges that it would be necessary to
transform these challenges into opportunities.
The AJK President disclosed that the Joint Coordination
Committee (JCC) of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor had
decided in its meeting on December 31, last year in Beijing,
that out of the nine industrial zones to be established under
CPEC, one would be set up in Mirpur.
This would be a truly historic watershed and a big avenue
to huge opening for Azad Jammu Kashmir’s economy which would
stimulate industrial growth and make Azad Kashmir an economic
engine for manufacturing and exports, 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, he 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,” he added.
The government, President 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.
Masood Khan further said that mainstreaming environment in the
CPEC entails effective monitoring and oversight; and in this regard government regulators, civil society and the media should play an
active role.
The AJK President said that the State Government has focused
its due energies on developing requisite capacities, refining
guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic
Environmental Assessment under the relevant legislation. EIAs,
however, should be conducted more regularly and rigorously.
“The AJK government is in the initial phase of designing
the zone in Mirpur and we can make environment a keystone for
it and other CPEC projects to follow’ , he said. “The CPEC
projects in Azad Kashmir will be made sustainable both
economically and environmentally. We need modern industrial
infrastructure but it should also be conceived and implemented
with the environmental impact in mind,” he added.
Sardar Masood said that self-evident that economic
development and environmental protection are closely linked.
In modern day planning, the two cannot and should not be
separated.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should therefore be
integrated into all development projects. There should be no
two opinions about this, he added.
He recalled that October 2005 deadly earthquake and the
2010 floods had shown fragility of ecosystems as well as their
vulnerability to natural disasters.
The President emphasized 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 will have to develop an overall environment-friendly
culture. “The AJK Government is fully committed to doing so,”
he added.
The President congratulated the AJK Environmental Protection
Agency and Laraib Energy for bringing all stakeholders together
in the pre-design or the design phase of Mirpur’s special economic
zone (SEZ).