The government on Friday conditionally approved the 285-kilometre long western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) after Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa objected over its alignment and claimed that it is in violation of the agreement reached at an all parties conference (APC).
The APC held in May last year was instrumental in developing national consensus on routes of the CPEC. It recommended that the government give priority to the western route which passes through some of the country’s hinterlands and can help address poverty in these areas. The government initially preferred the eastern route and allocated more than 90% of CPEC funding for its early completion.
On Friday, the communication ministry tabled the project for construction of a motorway from Burhan/Hakla on M-1 to Dera Ismail Khan at the rationalised cost of Rs124.2 billion for the consideration of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec).
However, K-P Finance Minister Muzaffar Sayyed objected to the proposed alignment, officials told The Express Tribune after the meeting. They said he claimed that the alignment was not final yet and that the route was in violation of the APC agreement.
The communication ministry informed the meeting that the route for the motorway was as per the joint declaration issued after the APC, a handout issued by the finance ministry said.
Ecnec was also informed that the proposed alignment of the project along the western route of CPEC has been taken up as agreed during the 5th Joint Coordination Committee meeting between China and Pakistan
The finance ministry said Ecnec approved the project, subject to formal confirmation of the route being in accordance with the understanding contained in the joint declaration of the APC. Ecnec Chairman Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the K-P should not change the goalposts as the matter has already been resolved at the highest political level.
Ecnec also conditionally approved a Rs11.98 billion project for acquisition of land for western route, compensation for affected properties and relocation of utilities for construction of the Burhan/Hakla to DI Khan motorway.
According to the project documents, the Hakla-DI Khan road will be completed by June 2018 and work on it is expected to begin by the middle of this year.
However, the last-minute objections may create difficulties in timely completion of this project. Another issue that can affect timely completion is the availability of the requisite funds as the project requires huge funds for its completion by June 2018.
The proposed motorway will be built as a controlled access facility and includes provision of 11 interchanges, 19 flyovers, 15 bridges, 74 underpasses, 259 culverts and three major bridges.
The land acquisition project envisages acquisition of 7,575 acres of land for construction of the expressway. The average unit cost of the project is Rs1.8 million per acre, which is slightly on the lower side when compared with the unit cost of the Rs1.97 million per acre of Sukkur-Multan section of the eastern route.
Ecnec approved the project for construction of bridge across River Indus connecting Larkana and Khairpur districts with approach roads and river training works at a revised cost of Rs13.4 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2016.