Expressway corridor extension’s year of wait

Centre repeatedly turns down CDA requests for funding a project to connect Koral Underpass with GT Road

Iftikhar Chaudhry January 01, 2020

ISLAMABAD: bannerThe outgoing year proved to be another year of pain for people commuting from Koral Interchange to the Grand Trunk (GT) Road on the Islamabad Expressway as the government failed to release funds for the Rs10 billion Signal-Free Corridor extension project.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) had requested the federal government to issue a grant of Rs1.5 billion to build the Korang Bridge and PWD Underpass. But the government refused to entertain the request.

Because of the heavy flow of traffic on this segment, the CDA had requested former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to allocate funds in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) in the budget for the fiscal year 2018-19. The former premier subsequently directed the finance ministry to include the project in the budget and the PML-N government earmarked over Rs7 billion for the project.

But when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) took charge after the July 2018 general elections, the funds for the project were frozen and it was pushed onto the backburner as the government launched an austerity drive.

Left cash-strapped, the CDA then decided to complete the project phase-wise. Under this plan, the authority sought Rs1.5 billion from the federal government for the construction of Korang Bridge and PWD underpasses, but the request was once again rejected, sources in the authority told The Express Tribune.

Instead, the government directed the authority to complete the project under the public-private partnership.

Per the directives of the government, the CDA approached managements of private housing schemes which stood to benefit from these projects and asked them to finance 80 per cent of the project’s cost. The societies agreed to this proposal after which digging work for the underpass near Korang Bridge began.

Surprisingly though, the private partners stepped back from the provision of the promised sum. As a result, work on the project came to a grinding halt, sources said.

CDA apprised the government about the latest situation and offered to start the project on its own. The authority suggested that the government compensate it for the cost of the project in a grant in the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for the fiscal year 2019-20.

The government, though, once again turned down the recommendation.

Besides this, the CDA has yet to receive Rs500 million in grants which the government did allocate for it under PSDP.

A senior official in CDA told The Express Tribune that not only this project but other projects worth Rs10 billion which had been approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) during the tenure of the previous government have been put in cold storage by the incumbent government.

The CDA, though, has little option but to once again request the federal government to issue a grant to complete these projects under the PSDP programme in the next fiscal year.

Elsewhere, though, the CDA did earmark land for building sewerage treatment and desalination plants in the city. However, the allocation only came after directives from the top court.

Moreover, the city also finalised a new master plan. The plan was crafted by a federal committee on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Among the key aspects of the new plan was the permission granted by the federal cabinet to build high-rises in the city to accommodate its rising population.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2020.


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