Rs 7bn still required to complete road project by December

The incomplete Mandra-Chakwal Road. — Dawn
The incomplete Mandra-Chakwal Road. — Dawn

CHAKWAL: Due to the shortage of funds and lethargy by the departments concerned, the pace of work on two road projects worth Rs17 billion is yet to see any considerable progress.

In the fiscal year 2016-17, only Rs1,500 million and Rs1,200 million, respectively, were allocated for the Mandra-Chakwal Road and the Chakwal Sohawa Road.

The Mandra-Chakwal Road is supposed to be completed by December 2016 but an amount of Rs6.40 billion is still required for the project.

The government has also not released Rs1 billion for the acquisition of land for the construction of a bypass on the Mandra-Chakwal Road.

Funds also not released to forest department and Iesco for removal of trees and electric poles

Funds are also to be released to the forest department and Iesco for the removal of trees and poles from the Chakwal-Sohawa Road.

The 63.5km Mandra-Chakwal Road links Chakwal with Rawalpindi and Islamabad while the 70km Chakwal-Sohawa Road connects Chakwal with Jhelum and other cities located along the G.T. Road.

The two projects were first launched by Raja Pervez Ashraf in 2012 but due to legal lacunas work on the roads could not be started till 2014. In July 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif re-launched the projects and promised that both the projects would be completed by July 2015. But the ground situation shows that the projects are unlikely to be ready even by 2017.

The authorities concerned have set December 2016 as the deadline for the completion of the Mandra-Chakwal Road. “If the pace of work remains the same the construction of the road is unlikely to be completed by December 2017,” said an official. Even four years after the launch of the project, the authorities concerned could not acquire land in the Murid village near Mandra where a flyover is to be built on the railway crossing. Neither land has been acquired nor an encroachment drive launched in the Dhudial town where the space is too narrow to make the road a dual carriageway.

MNA Tahir Iqbal from Chakwal and MNA Raja Javed Ikhlas from Gujar Khan are trying to acquire the land from the Pakistan Railways in the Dhudial town.

The Mandra-Chakwal Road is to be made dual carriageway at a cost of Rs9.32 billion but so far only Rs2.90 billion have been spent on the project while the road is to be completed by December 2016. One wonders how the authorities would spend the rest of the Rs6.40 billion in four months.

The government has allocated only Rs1,500 million for the Mandra-Chakwal Road in the fiscal year 2016-17.

The pace of work on the Chakwal-Sohawa Road also remains slow. The road was supposed to be made a dual carriageway at a cost of Rs8.76 billion by July 2015 but now the deadline has been extended to October 2017. So far, only Rs250 million could be spent on the project while Rs1,200 million have been allocated for the project in the fiscal year 2016-17.

“If the pace of work remains the same the work is unlikely to be completed even by October 2018,” said another official.

The project manager of the Mandra-Chakwal Road, Brigadier Sohail Abrar, put the blame for the delay on the district administration, saying it failed to remove the encroachments from the road. “Electric polls, trees and gas pipelines have not been removed from the road, which are hampering the work. Besides, the district administration has also failed to acquire the land,” he told Dawn.

“We would finish our work by December 2017 on the Mandra-Chakwal Road provided we are given a free passage.” He said his organisation had completed work on the 18km section of the road.

When contacted, District Coordination Officer (DCO) Mehmood Javed Bhatti said the district administration had not been given any funds to acquire the land. “There is a proper process for the acquisition of land which takes time. We would acquire the land as we get the required money,” he added.

The DCO said he had reprimanded several times the officials of the concerned departments for not removing the encroachments from the road.

“I am very worried and concerned that people are suffering due to the poor conditions of the two roads. I am trying my best to play my role to fix the issue,” he maintained.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2016