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China has expressed its willingness to help install four nuclear power plants in various parts of the country

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI
Islamabad
April 29 - May 05, 2002

Besides providing generous financial and technological assistance for giant projects like Gawadar port, Thar Coal, Saindak gold and copper projects, coal fired power generation projects, China has now offered help for nuclear power plants. According a source at the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) China has expressed its willingness to help install four nuclear power plants in various parts of the country to generate 2100 MWs of electricity at an estimated cost of $ 3.3 billion.

Keeping in view financial difficulties and a slowing down of the demand for electricity, the PAEC has made a revised nuclear power programme, to be completed by 2015. The programme envisages that one 300 MW nuclear power units will be operational by the year 2015, while a fourth 600 MW nuclear power plant will be operational by 2016, the source said.

Apart from this a Chinese oil company has shown keen interest in the construction of an oil refining unit at the port city, roughly estimated to cost $600 million. It is also looking for new avenues for potential investments in acquiring equity share in the proposed Iran ñ Pak Refinery or setting up an independent oil refining unit at a feasible location in the financial hub of the country.

The crude oil would be imported from Sudan where the companyís exploration work is in progress. Keeping in view the facility of the Karachi Port, it has shown the interest in investment or in setting up an oil refinery unit at the coastal city.

The company is also studying the market in Pakistan for the petroleum products it will produce. A delegation of the company is on a study tour and has visited various locations to explore new avenues for investment in Pakistan.

Sources in the Ministry of Petroleum said that it might be a huge investment but declined to give details about the areas of interest of the company. The delegation of the company also visited the National Refinery Limited (NRL) where it was briefed on the refining operations of the NRL.

It was indeed a red-letter day in the history of Pak-China relations when, about 2 weeks back, the Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Usman Aminuddin performed the ground breaking ceremony for initiating the excavation of coal deposits at Thari-jo-Tar, in district Tharparkar, Sindh. The ceremony market the government's firm decision to commercially exploit and utilise Pakistan's largest coal reserves, estimated at about 175 billion tonnes spread over an area of 9,000 square kilometers.

Speaking on the occasion, the minister disclosed that President General Pervez Musharraf himself requested the Chinese government, during his official visit to that country, to extend assistance to Pakistan for commercially exploiting the rich wealth of coal deposits in the Tharparkar district. This is one of the most backward areas of the country, which is now destined to reap the economic benefits resulting from the envisaged development of coal mining. A network of roads is also being constructed in the area as necessary pre-requisite to provide transport facilities from the area for the movement of coal to different sites.

The contract for preliminary excavation of coal has been awarded by the provincial government to a private firm, Bakht Business House of Karachi known for coal mining expertise. A pleasant coincident as revealed by the managing director of this company, was the discovery of water near the area at a depth of 60 feet in abundance, sufficient for irrigating about 200 acres of cultivated land for over 10 years. This undoubtedly is help from the heavens as water would be required in a fairly large quantity for mining and the miners.

It may be recalled here that the Geological Survey of Pakistan discovered these reserves with the assistance of US Geological Survey back in 1992. But little attention was given by successive governments to initiate its commercial exploitation. The investment from Chinese companies is estimated at $500 million which would involve establishment of two power generating plants of 250 megawatts and 150 megawatts each using indigenous coal as fuel.

While development of Thar coal reserves will change the fate of — the people living in Thar the most backward area of Sindh, the economy of Balochistan province, hitherto a neglected area in our priorities, has received two major boosts with Chinese help during the last month. Oneof the Chinese Vice Premiers, Wu Bangguo performed the ground breaking ceremony of Gawadar deep sea port on March 23, 2002. Besides the Saindak copper gold project closed for the last over six years resumed operation by almost the same time.

Th multibillion rupees Saindak project in Chaghi district complete in every respect which was standing idle since 1995 is poised to go in production during the next 2 months under the control of MCC of China to whom the project has been leased out. The Saindak complex, which is in good condition, consists of 50 MW power plant built by Germany and France, bulk water supply system of 32,000 tonnes of daily drinking water, water treatment plant, warehouse, workshops, laboratories, storage, airport and railroad link with ECO (Previous RCD) highway. Moreover, the complex has modern Housing Township with schools, hospitals, shopping plazas, streets, streetlights and network of water pipeline for more than 2000 residents.

The ground breaking ceremony of Gawadar deep sea port was performed by the Chinese Vice President on March 23, 2002. Speaking on the occasion the Minister for Communications said that China had strictly adhered to its commitment for financial and technical assistance in the construction of the Gawadar deep sea port. Expected to be completed in two phases, the port will provide housing, transshipment, commercial and industrial facilities for international import and export trade with Afghanistan, Central Asian States, Gulf States, East Africa, Red Sea countries and Sri Lanka, through Pakistan. He said that Balochistan government has already allotted about 18000 hectares of land, free of cost, for the port construction with ultra modern amenities and facilities for promotion of trade, commerce and industry via sea and overland. There are also plans for railroad network with Gawadar 653 km long road is already under-construction at a cost of over Rs. 11 billion, linking Gawadar with Karachi on one side, while with Jiwani near Iran on the other.