Ring Road project gets another life

CDWP recommends additional projects worth Rs37.1b to ECNEC for consideration


Shahbaz Rana November 24, 2021
CDWP recommended land acquisition for Lai Expressway at a cost of Rs25b. photo: file

ISLAMABAD:

The federal government has conditionally cleared the construction of a controversial Rawalpindi Ring Road project with Rs23.6 billion public funding, which is now proposed to be completed along the original route to end controversy.

The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) - the first tier for scrutiny of mega projects - on Tuesday conditionally recommended the Ring Road project to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) for consideration.

A few months ago, the route of the project had brought a bad name to the government after two cabinet members were found connected with a change in it that escalated the land acquisition cost by Rs10 billion.

However, the CDWP cleared only the construction component of the project at a cost of Rs23.6 billion. The Punjab government has already separately revised downwards the land component scheme cost from over Rs16 billion to Rs6.7 billion.

The project is planned to be completed in three years but there is hardly any venture in Pakistan that has been completed on time due to scarcity of resources and poor planning and execution.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan presided over the CDWP meeting. The CDWP recommended three projects worth Rs60.6 billion to the ECNEC for further consideration.

It recommended the constriction of Rawalpindi Ring Road project on 38.3-kilometre-long road from Baanth (N-5) to Thalian (M-2) at a cost of Rs23.6 billion. The sponsoring agency is the government of Punjab and executing one is the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA).

Of the total PC-I cost of Rs23.6 billion, which is for construction of Rawalpindi Ring Road, the Punjab government had proposed that the federal government should bear Rs15.2 billion.

But during the CDWP meeting, the federal government refused to provide funding on the ground that it was already financing 13 new road projects worth Rs73.3 billion of the Punjab government through the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and it did not have fiscal space. Out of Rs73 billion, Rs33.5 billion has already been allocated in this fiscal year’s PSDP.

The provincial government had proposed to pay only Rs8.4 billion of the total cost.

The construction of the project had been originally proposed to be taken up on Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode. However, the Punjab government shelved the private financing plan and instead opted to fund the scheme from the taxpayers’ money.

The transport section of the planning ministry was of the view that considering the projected traffic data given in the PC-I, traffic in the year 2022 comes out as 52,952 vehicles per day and in the year 2048, 84,798 vehicles per day. The projected traffic data shows that the project is a clear candidate for PPP, it added.

The project envisages the construction of six lanes access-controlled Rawalpindi Ring Road measuring 38.30km in length. The alignment of the Rawalpindi Ring Road originates from National Highway (N-5) at Baanth (Rawalpindi district), crosses through Chakbeli Road, Adiyala Road as well as Chakri Road and terminates at Motorway M-2 at Thallian Interchange.

For land acquisition, a PC-I at the cost of Rs6.3 billion had been approved by the Punjab government in July this year. The alignment proposed in the PC-I started from Rawat (junction of Islamabad expressway and N-5) and the termination point was Thallian Interchange on M-2.

Earlier, the Punjab Planning and Development Board had submitted a revised PC-I titled ‘Land Acquisition, Property Compensation, Afforestation, Shifting of Utilities for Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) Project (66.3km)’ at the cost of Rs16.3 billion to the Ministry of Planning for processing through CDWP and ECNEC

The original PC-I of the project had been approved by the Punjab government at the cost of Rs6.3 billion in July 2020. The alignment in the revised PC-I was changed. The termination point of the alignment was changed from Thallian Interchange at M2 in the original PC-I to Sangjani on N-5 in the revised PC-I.

The CDWP was informed that after submission of revised PC-I, the Punjab government made no correspondence with the planning ministry regarding the initiation of inquiry against the former Rawalpindi commissioner and other officials of the Punjab government on the matter of change in alignment.

This ministry on the basis of information from the print and electronic media regarding inquiry into the Rawalpindi Ring Road project, returned the revised PC-I to the government of Punjab with the direction to conduct a thorough investigation through a third party for increase and change in alignment of the Rawalpindi Ring Road and land rates used for estimating the project cost.

But the Punjab government never submitted a report. The CDWP was informed that the former Rawalpindi commissioner concealed the facts from the provincial government, according to an official who attended the meeting.

The CDWP has also sought surety that the government of Punjab s should confirm that the proposed agreed alignment in the instant PC-I is purely on technical grounds and will not be subject to investigations in the future.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2021.

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