MANSEHRA: Construction work on Bakriyal city, formerly known as New Balakot City project, is likely to resume within a week.
This was announced at a meeting held in Balakot Tuesday evening. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Mian Ziaur Rehman, Mansehra district nazim Sardar Said Ghulam, Balakot tehsil nazim Rustum Khan, Mansehra DC Amir Khattak and members of Bakriyal Action Committee attended the moot.
The decision was taken after the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) gained approval for the initiative from the local administration and elected representatives. During the meeting, the local administration also planned to take action against those creating obstacles for construction work.
Speaking on the occasion, Colonel (retd) Abrar Ismail, the project manager, told participants development work on the initiative was initiated in 2007 over 15,000 kanals of land. The scope of the project was eventually reduced to 7,905 kanals of land after a series of disputes with landowners came to the fore.
The federal government disbursed Rs1.5 billion to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and paid the amount to a large number of landowners.
Nonetheless, construction work was forcibly suspended in 2008 following disputes with landowners. Ismail added, “Although work resumed after some time, it was halted once again after 13 months when landowners clashed with project staff and the construction company.”
Since 2009, work on the project has screeched to a grinding halt. According to project manager, between 2007 and 2009 work on 1,500 plots of 10 marlas in the C and D sectors was completed – about 750 kanals.
“Owing to delay in possession of land in A, B and E sectors, construction work could not be started,” he said.
He added the government was committed to the rehabilitation of quake-affected communities of Balakot. However, property-owners refused to cooperate.
“The government has so far spent Rs2 billion on the project,” he said. “Delays caused by the failure to take land which have been paid have deprived the government of funds from the Libyan government.”
The Libyan government had pledged funds for construction of a mosque that would accommodate 5,000 people. The Gadaffi Foundation of Libya, according to official records, had pledged $25 million in donation. But due to the political upheaval in the country, the foundation has withdrawn its support suspending various development projects.
Speaking on the occasion, Mansehra DC Amir Khattak said the federal and provincial governments have pressed for the completion of city for a long time. He asked the project manager to resume work on E and B sectors within the next seven days. “The police, local administration and Bakriyal Action Committee will ensure no one tries to create obstacles in the construction work,” he said. “The Balakot DSP and AC would supervise work and police officials will be on the construction site.”
According to Khattak, Bakriyal Action Committee would be held responsible for any reaction from landowners in E and B sectors.
“The project manager should steer clear of carrying out construction on 2,700 kanals of land in sector A which remain disputed,” he said. “Negotiations are under way with landowners and construction cannot be carried out until a decision is reached.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2016.