With 770km long coastal belt along the Arabian Sea, Balochistan has the 70 percent of the country’s total coastline of about 1,045km. The coastal and sea-resources of Balochistan have not yet fully exploited and sustainably used for economic development of the province. The efficient and sustainable exploitation can bring about a positive change in the living standards of the people, particularly of coastal Balochistan and improve livelihoods there, besides creating enormous job opportunities and boosting economic activities in the least developed province.
The fishing is the only activity available to the people of coastal areas in Balochistan. With high illiteracy rate, the local fishermen find it harder to get alternative occupation other than the fishing. Lack of industry and agriculture is another reason behind association of majority people of coastal areas with fishing. Balochistan coast has huge potential for development of fisheries, tourism and seaports and renewable energy projects. The province enjoys diversity of marine life in nature. Its coastline is the most productive marine ecosystem of the world. According to an estimate, 60 species of fish and 10 of shrimps, including the best in the world, are found in the province. Present government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the provincial authorities need to make a long-term economic plan for development of coastal and sea-resources of the province.
For creation of more jobs, there is a dire need to develop ancillary industries in fisheries sector in Balochistan. These industries may include boat repair and engine workshops, transport and boatbuilding.
Gwadar Port on Makran coast has the potential to become the industrial crown of the country. It can transform the Pakistan’s economic status forever. It will enjoy prime importance because of its geo-strategic location marking the confluence of South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia. The Gwadar Free Trade Zone will open up many more possibilities for the region. Gwadar, after completion of port project is expected to become the ‘boom’ town in the next few years.
Gaddani ship breaking industry in Balochistan is the third largest in the world, employs about 10,000 workers and meets one-third of the scrap requirements of the re-rolling mills in Pakistan. The industry is a major contributor to the economy by meeting half of the steel requirement of the country. The ship breaking workers are permanently exposed to toxic substances. On account of these health hazards, the environmentalists consider ship breaking industry amongst the most deadly in the world. The majority of ships scrapped on Gaddani beach is oil tankers. Local breakers are specialized in large tonnage vessels.
In Balochistan, fisheries provide direct employment to an estimated 400,000 people. There is a high need for promotion and development of large-scale commercial coastal aquaculture in Balochistan. The availability of the long coastline with plenty of land enhances the scope for coastal aquaculture in the province. The Fisheries Development Board (FDB) needs to identify pond sites and establish shrimp hatcheries in different coastal areas. There is a huge potential for farming many other types of aquaculture and species in Balochistan. The development of coastal aquaculture is subject to resolution of land tenure issues, security problem, lack of skilled manpower and feed availability issues. The Balochistan government needs to address and resolve these issues on priority basis and work out a master plan for coastal aquaculture development.
Balochistan lacks the infrastructure facilities for fishing. The catch is spoiled as it is exposed to sun and impurities. In the absence of quality control regime, fresh and good quality fish find no access to national and international markets at large scales. Local fisherman are confronted with numerous problems. They still follow the old and obsolete methods of fishing. They are unaware of latest fishing technologies and still use old and smaller vessels for fishing. They have no processing plant for preservation of their catch. Local fishermen have no access to national and international markets for lack of infrastructure facilities and mainly because of their poverty. They remain deprived of fruit of their catch and hence there seems no improvement in their socio-economic conditions. Increasing cost of transportation and lack of preservation technology are the main hurdles barring the local fisherman to fish in deep waters. The working capital should be provided to purchase fuel, ration and ice, overhead expenses i.e. labour, packaging, processing and cleaning items required for export of fish. The fisheries export potential needs to be tapped fully and efficiently. Steps need to be taken on priority basis to introduce new technologies and impart training to the local fishermen for fishing on modern lines.
The land along coastal belt has enormous potential for development of shrimp farming and processing projects, which can play a vital role in fisheries development in the province. Construction of shrimp farms by the government or private parties may be an initiative to boost shrimp farming activity in the province. Present government should allocate funds for construction of a model fish market in coastal towns. There is a need to introduce intensive fish cage culture at Sabkzai and Mirani dams. The ideal sites for shrimp farms and shrimp hatchery could be at Gaddani, Pasni, Kalmat, Pishukan and Jiwani. Balochistan government must allot land for the shrimp farming projects. The interested entrepreneurs and investors can promote the shrimp farming in the province purely on the commercial basis. Special emphasis should be put on construction of environment-friendly shrimp farms in Balochistan, as environmental deterioration in shrimp farms and coastal waters is common evidence after intensive shrimp farming due to the accumulation of organic waste.
Tidal energy projects
The coastline of the province is the best resource for exploiting the tidal energy. Grid-based or off-grid tidal power stations could be constructed, depending on site conditions. The off-grid power stations would be more advantageous for meeting rural needs of electricity. Sonmiani Beach and Kalamat are good prospects of tidal energy in Balochistan. In 2013, a license was issued to private companies for building tidal power stations and initially a 10 MW plant was proposed at Sonmiani Bay. The available wind speed data collected from the meteorological directorate suggest that coastal area of Balochistan has enough wind speed to help generate electricity or to directly operate prime movers for water pumping systems largely suitable for small power requirements and remote area applications. The technical violability depends on the availability of mean wind speed, which must be at least equal to 3 meter per second for its minimum utility. Most of the wind resources are located either along the sea coast lines or on the mountains.