NABEEL ANWAR DHAKKU
CHAKWAL: After the Supreme Court took notice of the illegal stone crushing and blasting in the Margalla Hills, the supply of gravel has been affected due to which the project of widening and reconstruction of the Neelah Road, which connects more than two dozen villages to the Chakwal city has been delayed.
Residents of three of the villages have also forced construction work on the road to be stopped on the part which passes through their villages, arguing that the road cuts through their water supply lines. In addition to this, the funds released for the widening and reconstruction of the road have been exhausted and more funds are yet to be released which is why work cannot continue on the road.
Neelah Road is one of the main roads in the Chakwal district and was in a dilapidated condition till June 2015. Because the road falls into the PP22 constituency, MPA Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Dullah promised his ward during his 2013 election campaign that the reconstruction of the road and other uplift projects will be his priority.
Mr Dullah was able to get approval for the project from the chief minister in 2014. An official of the Provincial Highway Department said that initially a ‘triple service treatment’ road was approved which are common in rural areas and that Mr Dullah was not satisfied with this as he wanted a carpeted road. The MPA managed to get approval for carpeting the 43 kilometre, 20 feet wide road in 2015. The project was to be completed at a cost of Rs639 million by June 2016. The MPA also added in four feet wide shoulders on both sides of the road in the plans, which also increased the cost of the project to Rs760 million.
The project was awarded to two contractors. The first contractor, Tayab Manzoor, was tasked with reconstructing and widening 20 kilometres of the road from Odherwal towards Neelah and the second contractor, Imran Mumtaz was to rebuild and widen the rest of the 23 kilometres.
“Rs 168 million were released for the project at first and another Rs 139 million were released later,” an official said.
Though the deadline for the project was set at June 2106, only nine kilometres of the road has so far been completed. Rs307 million have been spent on the project to date and another Rs 453 million are needed to complete the project.
Meanwhile, the project has also suffered after the Supreme Court took notice of the stone crushing in the Margalla Hills.
“The gravel approved for public projects comes either from Margalla or from Sargodha. For this project, gravel from Margalla was approved, the supply of which has been halted as stone crushing in the Margalla area has been stopped on the Supreme Court’s orders. Some stone crushing contractors are on strike as well,” an official said. On the other hand, residents of the Chak Bhoun, Vero and Lakhwal villages have also caused construction work to be stopped on the part of the road which passes through their villages because the road passes through their water supply lines.
The villages argue that if the road is built on top the supply lines, they will not be able to fix the pipes should a fault develop in the future.
“We will have to dig up the road, which will break it,” said Chaudhry Munir Hussein, a notable of the Chak Bhoun Village.
Locals have warned authorities they will not let the road be built if the supply lines are not moved. The Public Health and Engineering Department, which is responsible for supplying drinking water to residents, estimates that Rs10 million will be needed in order to move the water supply line from the road’s route.
However, the Planning and Development Board is yet to approve the proposal.
With the Rs 10 million needed to move the supply lines, the cost of the road will increase to Rs 770 million.
Yet another reason for the delay in the project is the construction of a bridge over the Soaj Nullah. The design for the bridge has been prepared but is yet to be approved. Sub-Divisional Officer of the Provincial Highway Department Jawad Asghar told Dawn the road will be completed by December 2016.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2016