ISLAMABAD: Despite promises from the government to inaugurate the New Islamabad International Airport (NIIA) on Independence Day later this month, incomplete link roads mean that the project’s opening may be delayed by several months, again.
This was revealed by Senator Talha Mehmood following a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat and the committee’s convener visited the under-construction airport on Tuesday.
Expressing dismay over the delays, the committee’s chairman said that poor planning on part of the National Highway Authority (NHA) was causing delays in the multi-billion-rupee project.
“The absence of link roads would cause huge financial losses to the government,” he told the media.
Senator Mehmood added that the NHA had repeatedly assured the committee that it would construct the link roads by November this year. However, it has failed to meet the deadline, he added.
“The committee is ready to resolve problems faced by the highway authority.”
He further said that the project was meant to cost Rs32 billion when it was first planned in 2007. However, owing to poor planning the cost had now jumped to over Rs82 billion. However, he explained that the initial plans for the airport did not include funds for radars, lights and water supply.
To review and address issues delaying the completion of the airport, Mehmood said that the committee has jointly decided to summon the chairman of the NHA and officials of other relevant departments which were causing delays.
Even though the project has been delayed, Mehmood said that 97 per cent of construction work on the new airport has been completed and issues pertaining to gas, water and electricity supply have also been resolved.
“Equipped with modern facilities, this airport would be the biggest airport in the country,” he hoped.
Earlier, Capital Development Authority (CDA) officials told the committee that construction of the Islamabad Metro Bus had caused delays in building the link roads.
Moreover, officials said that they had some issue in acquiring land for the related projects which are being resolved.
In response, committee members said that without link roads, the opening of the airport would be futile.
CDA officials, however, assured members that all links roads leading to the airport are expected to be completed by the end of December.
Meanwhile, top officials of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told the panel that 19 projects relating to the Islamabad airport were currently underway and most of them were close to completion.
The NIIA was scheduled to be inaugurated by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on August 14.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2017.