The economic potential of Sindh was recently underlined by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah who asserted that the province could become an economic and power hub.
With proven coal reserves of 175 billion tonnes at Thar capable of generating 100,000 MWs of electricity, Sindh holds the potential to address the country’s crippling energy deficit. At present Sindh produces over 70% of the country’s gas and 51% of its oil. In terms of alternative energy sources, Sindh’s 180 km long wind corridor can be developed for wind energy.
Connected to the Arabia Sea and blessed with fertile lands adjacent to the Indus river, Sindh is a province rich in resources. For centuries Sindhis have worked as farmers, traders and fishermen. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries river routes connected merchants in Shikarpur, Sukkur and Hyderabad with commercial centres in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. At present Sindh has over 5.4 million hectares of cultivable land and contributes about 23% to the country’s agricultural output.
In spite of its myriad advantages, decades of poor planning and neglect have left the province mired in poverty compounded by low literacy levels and inadequate infrastructure. In April, the National Nutrition Survey (NNS)-2011 confirmed that Sindh had the highest rate of malnutrition among children and women in comparison to the other provinces. According to NNS-2011 research, Sindh was the poorest and most food deprived province of the country with only 28.2% of households having food security.
Last year’s floods in Sindh had devastating consequences: the death toll went into the hundreds, almost 700,000 houses were damaged and crops on 1.7 million acres were destroyed.
Sindh was once a flourishing centre of commerce, progressive thought and prosperity. The ancient ruins of Mohenjedaro stand as testament to a once thriving urban civilization. Along with Mesopotamia and China, the Indus civilisation is one of the oldest in the world stretching back to the third millennium BCE.
At present, Karachi, the capital of Sindh and the commercial capital of the country, remains in the grip of anarchy and violence. The city’s inhabitants are victims to the baneful rhythm of the city’s deadly power play as rival groups clash in bloody turf wars. In early April, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated that ethnic, sectarian and politically linked violence in Karachi has killed at least 300 people so far this year.
Lack of civic amenities means that the city comes to a standstill during the monsoon season, the rains bring death, disease and destruction, relentless load shedding makes generators unviable to run, fuel prices continue to rise exacerbating the inflationary spiral, the gap between fabulous wealth and abject poverty is startling. In spite of these seemingly intractable problems, Karachi remains a vibrant financial capital, with a buoyant stock market and a dynamic industrial and entrepreneurial base.