As traffic problems continue to multiply, the residents of Rawalpindi will have to patiently wait for any progress on Ring Road, because the Punjab government has been unable to get any financial support for the project.
Proposed in 1991, the project has been pending due to lack of investor interest. Last year, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took the proposal to China and discussed the idea of build-operate-transfer (BOT) criteria, but could not attract any investors. Under the agreement, the investor will build the project, operate it (thus receiving any revenue from it) and later transfer it to government when it wants.
“No foreign investors expressed interest in the multibillion rupee project, which is said to be an essential part of Rawalpindi’s road infrastructure,” said a district administration official.
The project aims to link the rural population with the city and cantonment areas in Rawalpindi. The project would also ease shifting industrial activity outside city limits. The road would start from Channi Sher Alam near Rawat town and cross Girja Road and Chakri Road besides stretching towards the under-construction new Islamabad airport at Fateh Jang.
During the last 20 years, no government opposed the idea as it was necessary to shift interprovincial and inter-district transport off the city’s main arteries. However, the concerned authorities could not arrange finances for the Rs70 billion project.
According to the revenue authorities involved in the project, around Rs25 billion were needed to purchase land and compensate people whose properties would need to be demolished to make way for the road.
In a meeting in Rawalpindi two years ago, top bureaucrats directed city managers to reduce the length and width of the road to cut costs. However, some PML-N lawmakers did not accept the proposal, as it would deprive several rural areas of access to the facility. The length of the proposed road, according to the 1992 and 1997 feasibility reports, was 40km and 55km respectively. However, the fresh feasibility report estimates it at 70km.
Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) Managing Director (DG) Chaudhry Naseer Ahmed said his department had continually been trying to win over investors, be they local or foreign, as the idea originated by RDA was to ease the traffic burden on city roads.
He said that at present, the RDA was in contact with a local investor and trying to convince him to accept the build-own-operate formula, but no positive response had been received. The DG added that National Highways or the CDA should also show interest in the project as it would also ease pressure on the roads of the federal capital.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2012.