Choose a location unfit for a development project and after stubbornly spending millions of rupees on it from the exchequer, dump the idea and start from scratch elsewhere.
This is what happened in the case of a parking plaza project initiated in 2008 by the Punjab government in Murree.
The provincial government had awarded a contract worth Rs1.5 billion for the construction of a 12-storey parking plaza in Jhika Gali, about four kilometres from Murree City, to overcome traffic congestion.
However, after spending millions of rupees to erect retaining walls and belly bridges to avert landslides during the five years that followed, the government shelved the project and proposed two other sites for the construction of the plaza, said an official source on Saturday.
Former Murree tehsil nazim Sardar Saleem criticised the Punjab government’s initial decision to establish the plaza at a landslide-prone site.
“It couldn’t be more unfortunate. First the government spent a huge amount of public money on a project that was inevitably going to fail, then, after the money was spent, they shelved it,”
The ex-nazim added that the project was initiated contrary to the feasibility report’s findings, submitted by the consultant National Engineering Services Pakistan (NesPak), which did not clear the site for construction.
The previous project, which was to accommodate 2,000 vehicles, was to be completed by late 2010, but was abandoned in its initial stages after the contractor failed to control landslides in the area and a British consulting firm declared the site unfit for heavy construction.
The decision was taken by Punjab Highway Department (PHD) during a meeting held in the last week of September, according to sources.
A senior PHD official requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune that millions of rupees were spent on the structure before the government dumped it in favour of surface parking projects proposed in Chitta Morh and Shohala area that are awaiting the chief minister’s approval.
“Despite the hiring of two international companies to find possible solutions, the government has made zero progress in giving commuters relief,” he said.
The provincial authorities are already facing harsh criticism from the public and tourists for the massive traffic jams caused by a temporary bridge during the high season.
Murree Assistant Commissioner Tahir Farooq confirmed the parking plaza project had been called off. He added that because of his recent appointment in the area, he had no knowledge why a huge amount was spent on a project that was destined to fail.
Despite repeated attempts, Member Punjab Assembly Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, who also happens to be the provincial minister for minerals, could not be reached.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2013.
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