Drowned Gwadar: Navigating Ambiguous Development and Climate Neglect
Drowned Gwadar: Navigating Ambiguous Development and Climate Neglect
Mirza Ghalib

Gwadar has been repeatedly hailed as the crown of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The national media has consistently portrayed Gwadar as the new epicenter of development. Videos showcasing the marine drive, cricket stadium, and parks have continuously circulated on social media. However, on February 27, 2024, extreme rains wreaked havoc in the city. The rain persisted for more than 48 hours, causing severe devastation and disrupting normal life. Numerous houses and businesses were destroyed, compelling people to relocate to safer areas. All of these events raised multiple questions about the so-called development rhetoric. Despite this, Gwadar is still being compared to developed cities worldwide.

In reality, the failed policies and ambiguous development were exposed by these natural disasters. Ironically, this is not the first time such incidents have occurred. In the past, similar events have happened multiple times. In 2022, floods left thousands homeless in Balochistan, including Gwadar. In December 2021, an emergency was declared in Gwadar due to a similar situation. In 2010, historic rains disrupted life in Gwadar, and in 2007, the Makran region was hit by floods, displacing thousands of people. Not to mention the 40-year-long water crisis; there are periodic water crises every two months. In Jiwani, a coastal town in the Gwadar district, houses receive water only once a month. In Jiwani, three people lost their lives due to water scarcity. The reluctance to address these significant human-centric problems raises questions about the administration and government’s ability to provide sustainable solutions.

There are two primary reasons for this reluctance. Firstly, since CPEC was initiated by the federal government, the provincial government was unwilling to focus on building necessary infrastructure. Flawed development projects neglected the needs of the common man, prioritizing roads, stadiums, and public parks instead. Ironically, without access to water and food, such developments become meaningless. While infrastructure development is crucial for city progress, human development should be the primary focus. The ambiguous development model has only popularized Gwadar as the new epicenter of development, while the indigenous people bear the brunt of both development and natural disasters.

Furthermore, there has been a deliberate policy to ignore local people’s needs. Historically, every state-initiated project in Balochistan has neglected the common people, as seen in examples like SUI gas. The socio-economic status of the common man in Saindak and Reko Diq is below average, questioning the potential benefits of the new extraction phase in Gwadar for the common man.

Secondly, climate change is a globally pressing issue and a severe existential threat to humanity. The global south, including Balochistan and Sindh, is on the frontline of climate change. However, it was not prioritized. In the 2024 elections, climate change was still not a priority. It is crucial to recognize climate change as a major security threat and prioritize it immediately. According to environmental scholars, climate change is environmental colonialism, more man-made than a natural disaster. In Gwadar’s case, the rainwater should have multiple routes to the sea to prevent destruction of indigenous homes, but the ambiguous development model has failed to provide an alternative route.

There is also an absence of political will. Mir Hammal Kalmati has been the MPA of Gwadar for 15 years, yet his performance is quite evident in the recent devastations. Similarly, elected members from Gwadar in the national assembly have remained silent on local issues. This gap between representatives and local issues is not limited to Gwadar; the entire province suffers from it. Effective people-centric policies are needed to address these issues, as mega-projects tend to fail without local engagement and participation, potentially leading to additional political conflict.

The upcoming provincial government must prioritize climate change, considering Balochistan’s frontline status in facing this major issue. Rehabilitation measures should be taken to address the loss and damage caused by the rains, or else mega-city projects like Gwadar will fail with ambiguous developmental measures.
The writer is a resident of Gwadar and a M-Phil Scholar in Political Science from Forman Christian College, Lahore.