PESHAWAR: In the middle of the night, vehicles enter the pitch black tunnel filled with smoke emitted by hundreds of vehicles that had passed through it earlier.
Smoke so dense, it was almost impossible to see the bonnet of your car. “It’s only going to get worse inside,” said the guard at the check post outside the tunnel. The car entered the tunnel only to be engulfed in a cloud of smoke, impossible to see what was in front or behind. Cars moved at a snail’s speed not knowing what direction they were headed in.
Without an exhaust system installed the tunnel has at least 180 trucks pass through it every hour. After traveling for twenty minutes the smoke starts to thin and the tunnel is visible for the first time, like a giant snake under the Lowari Top that acts as a border between Upper Dir and Chitral district.
The Lowari Tunnel is eight and half Kilometers long. This tunnel has been dug under the Lowari Top to connect the landlocked district of Chitral with the rest of the country. The Chitral district is situated on the far northern side of the province and has remained cut off from the rest of the country for around 6 months due to heavy snowfall, which surrounded the track with around 50 dangerous curves and bends on its northern side.
The mountainous terrain has also proved to be a killer and according to local figures around 3,000 people have died treading the snow-covered peak on foot, while trying to reach their homes in emergencies and on other occasions. The tunnel comes as a ray of hope for the people, ending the remoteness of the district.
It was opened for the first time to light traffic on a temporary basis to ease the traveling woes of the people last winter. To be connected to the rest of the country during winter is like a “dream come true” and for the first time the locals did not face shortage of food and other supplies.
“It was something of a new experience for us, as we continued to get vegetables, chicken, and other edibles during the winter, and it was for the first time in history that I remember this happening,” Inayat Khan, a local, told The Express Tribune.
The tunnel was originally conceived in 1955 by the then Member of the National Assembly Attaliq Jaffer Ali Shah who demanded the construction of the tunnel. The Frontier Works Organization (FWO) started work on tunnel in 1975. It was abandoned due to financial constraints. The Pervez Musharraf Government had work started on the tunnel in July 2006.
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