Hopes for the revival of the Leh Expressway are high as the Punjab government has made allocation for the mega project in the budget for 2012-13, which was abandoned four years ago after change of guard in the province. The provincial government has allocated Rs500 million for the project, an opposition member of the Punjab Assembly told the Express Tribune on Sunday.
The project, initially estimated to cost Rs18 billion, was inaugurated by military dictator General Pervez Musharraf in March 2007. Under the project two signal-free roads were to be constructed on both sides of Leh Nullah (drain) to provide hassle-free vehicular movement from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. It also included pavement of the Leh drain, reworking sewerage lines from New Katarian to Jhanda Chichi bridge.
“Rawalpindi’s public representatives have been asking for the revival of the project as the roads on both sides of the Leh Nullah passing through the heart of the city would ease traffic congestion and minimise the risk of flooding during the monsoon rains,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) Shehryar Riaz said.
Riaz hoped that work on the project would start in the current year after an assurance from the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to the city’s elected representatives.
However, he admitted that discussions under the original formula have yet to be made with the federal government as 50 per cent of the cost was to be borne by it.
Furthermore, modalities with the Frontier Works Organization (FWO), a commercial venture of Pakistan Army, have yet to be chalked out by the provincial government and the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) as the FWO is in litigation with the civic authorities over the security amount confiscated by the RDA after halting the project.
On the other hand, the RDA has reportedly sent a detailed report on the present status of the project to the provincial authorities.
An RDA official familiar with the issue told The Express Tribune that the cost of the project had escalated 28 per cent to Rs23 billion in the time the project was on hiatus.
The official, asking not to be named, said that in a recent meeting the FWO had expressed willingness to withdraw cases against city government and resume work on the project if the Punjab government resumed funding under the original agreement.
The official maintained that the roads on both sides of the drain were considered to be the most important parts of the project and would be completed in the end according to the original formula.
The expressway is the only solution to traffic congestions on Benazir Bhutto Road.
In the draft, the provincial authorities have been conveyed that the roads would not be feasible without lining the bed of the nullah with cement and laying sewerage lines.
If work on the roads is started only, the possibility of landslides are higher and the cost of the total project will increase as more land on both sides of the nullah is to be acquired according to the market price, the official said.
Published in The Express Tribune, 25th, 2012.
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