The federal government has allocated nearly Rs5 billion for the realignment of Karakoram Highway (KKH) and widening of Attabad Lake spillway under the Public Sector Development Programme 2012-13.
Of the total amount, Rs3.294 billion have been earmarked for the widening and rehabilitation of a 335-kilometre portion of KKH from Raikot to Khunjerab. In addition to that, Rs1.6 billion have been kept for the realignment of the highway’s portion which was submerged under water during the Attabad landslide in 2010.
As a result of the disaster, nearly 25,000 people in Gojal valley have been stranded after the landslide blocked the Hunza River creating a 23-kilometre dam in 2010. The lake water inundated three upstream villages. The landslide also blocked the KKH, a vital trade link connecting the country to China.
The project for opening the Attabad Lake spillway was awarded to Frontier Works Organization (FWO) in 2010. However, the organisation failed to give any satisfactory result despite being given Rs150 million for the project in two years.
The population living upstream has been suffering since then and passengers have been left with no choice but to travel by boats.
The ferry services operating on the lake have been charging commuters unfairly for the last three years, say commuters. The fares begin at Rs100 for a trip and go up to as high as Rs300.
FWO spokesperson Colonel Akhter admitted that 50% of the widening work had been completed so far.
However, he claimed that the progress is taking place ahead of time given by the government.
According to Akhter, the main reason behind the slow pace of work is its “complicated nature”, as widening work can only be carried out in winters due to risk involved for workers as well as the downstream population during the summers.
“This is a unique project which requires excessive care to avoid damages and I am sure no company in the world is ready to take the responsibility of this project,” he said.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2012.
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