A decade of development in cold storage

Eleven mega projects for public welfare remain incomplete after 15 years of delay


Qaiser Shirazi December 29, 2019
PHOTO: AFP

RAWALPINDI: banner

While each term of office brings new promises, seldom do any tend to go beyond lip service. The 11 public welfare mega projects announced some 15 years ago for Rawalpindi shared a similar fate, when even after a decade and a half later none of them could come to fruition owing to the incompetence of local and government authorities entrusted with the task of completeling them.

These projects, which included the Zacha Bacha Hospital, the 38 kilometre Ring Road, Charha Dam, Daducha Dam, Ghazi-Barotha Water Project, the transference of major retailer outlets to a foreign city, Nullah Lai’s extension, signal-free Lao Express, maintaining Sui Gas pressures and affordable housing-schemes, were promised to the people of Pakistan some 15 years ago.

However, despite the several announcements made during the tenures of previous governments as well as the current Chief Minister, none of the promised projects could be initiated; increasing the estimated project cost by 200 to 500%.

The foundation of Nullah Leh Express was laid down and expansion work had begun during former Chief Minister Parvez Elahi’s tenure. Space in Rawat for the retail markets as well as land for the two dams was also allocated around the same time and the preliminary cost was issued.

However, the Charha Dam project was eventually called off and its space was allotted to the private sector for building housing schemes and the 10 years of Shahbaz government, meant a decade of delay for all previous mega projects.

In the meantime, the cost of Nullah Leh project jumped from Rs 17 billion to Rs 85 billion. Whereas, the Ghazi Barotha Water Project which was initially valued at Rs 37 billion spiked to Rs 100 billion and the Daducha Dam’s cost escalated from Rs 2.5 billion to 6 billion.

The signal free road project running from Mareer Chowk to Liaquatabad Chowk has been intermittently delayed for the past 13 years.

Where the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) recently announced that the project study of Lai Express and Ring Road has produced results within a time frame of six months, RDA’s performance in the last 15 years has continued to remain questionable.

According to the Federal Parliamentary Secretary Sheikh Rashid Shafiq, the PC-I of the Ghazi-Barotha project will be made in March 2020.

“The former government is responsible for the delay in the project,” he said. “We will lay down the foundation of the project before June 30th while the new Zacha Bacha Hospital to replace the old TB hospital is in its final stages of completion. The construction work is complete and its emblazonment has begun,” he added.

Shafiq further shared that the procurement of machineries is also underway and so far 18 latest operation theatres have been built for the Zacha Bacha Hopsital, which will be inaugurated by June of 2020 and will offer free treatment to women and children.

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As per the Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Ring Road and Sui Gas projects have been expedited. “We have given the time sought by the bureaucracy and there is no lack of funds,” he shared.

The minister further opined that national and public welfare projects shouldn’t be made the subject of politics and the public should refrain from voting people who do.

While speaking to The Express Tribune, Khan also said after initiation next year, the projects will reach completion by 2022 under all circumstances. “Work on the Ring Road project will begin by June or July and will be completed in a period of 18 months,” he added.

Furthermore, the Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told The Express Tribune that he is focused on the Nullah Leh Express and Railway Main Line-1 (ML-1). “We had begun Leh  Express in 2007 and the project will be ready to function by 2020,” he affirmed.

On the other hand, Commissioner Rawalpindi Division, Muhammad Mehmood after taking a briefing on the severely delayed projects has sought a report for their study along with the PC-I and the acquisition of the land.

Whereas the matter of transferring major wholesale markets to the outskirts of the city has been shelved once again for an undisclosed period of time.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2019.

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