A committee mandated to recommend measures to improve Gilgit-Skardu Road has asked the route be made safe and landslide-free before January, a time of heavy snowfall.
“The repair work should start at once and be completed before the snowfall season arrives in January,” said Senior Minister Muhammad Jaffar, who heads the eight-member committee formed by Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah. The committee was formed by the chief minister this year after his efforts to widen the 270-kilometre Gilgit-Skardu Road were reportedly rejected by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The committee’s report has also called for the construction of safety walls along the road to prevent vehicles from falling into the river which flows parallel to it. Similarly, construction of support walls has been suggested on roads likely to be affected by landslides.
The 270-kilometre road passing through the towering Himalayan mountain range is narrow and dilapidated, causing problems for travellers. The rate of accidents on Gilgit-Skardu Road is higher as compared with the rest of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Tussle between ministry and G-B government
Shah, who is a resident of Skardu, has been trying to get the road widened in his stint as chief minister but the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan is reported to have rejected the proposal.
The rejection irked Shah who accused employees of the ministry of blocking the project. “There are some secretaries who are playing against the interest of G-B,” said Shah referring to the road issue.
According to a senior official in the ministry, the proposal was put on the backburner because it could result in wasting money.
“The widening of road required a large allocation and there were chances of wasting funds,” the official requesting anonymity recently told The Express Tribune. “That’s why the project has not gone ahead.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2014.