PM Nawaz Sharif inspects Lowari Tunnel
The tunnel, situated 7200 feet above sea level, will be completed by June 2017 at a cost of about Rs 26 billion.
The Prime Minister went inside the tunnel, disembarked from the vehicle and observed the construction activity.
National Highway Authority (NHA) Chairman Shahid Ashraf Tararbriefed the Prime Minister regarding salient features of the project.
He said two tunnels of 8.5 kilometer and 1.9 km respectively had been constructed under the project while approach roads of total 40 kilometer length were also being built on both sides of the tunnel.
SAMBU, a Korean construction firm, started work on the vital project in September 2005. However, the work was stopped in 2010 due to lack of funds and security reasons.
SAMBU resumed the construction work in October 2012 with the project converted into road tunnel from the railway.
Heavy machinery was being used to complete the project by 2017 as per the directives of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the NHA Chairman said.
The NHA authorities at the site were optimistic about the completion of the project according to deadline.
The Prime Minister was told that Rs 4.5 billion was approved in the year 2015-16 and Rs 4.5 billion allocated in 2016-17 for the project. Rs 1.1 billion had been spent so far in the current fiscal year.
He was informed that some 75 per cent work on the project had already been done as the Federal Government had accelerated release of funds to complete it within the stipulated time (June 2017).
Besides the construction of four bridges, link roads would be constructed to take full advantage of the project.
With the construction of the Lowari Tunnel, it was told that three hours time being consumed to cross Lowari Pass to reach Chitral, would be reduced to only 15 minutes.
Over 500,000 population of Chitral would benefit from the longest tunnel of Pakistan, who at present remained disconnected from rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the country for five to six months as Lowari Pass remained closed due to heavy snowfall in winter. The two-lane tunnel on completion would connect Chitral with the rest of the country round the year.
The Prime Minister was apprised that the project had international significance as well because it would serve as the major trading route to Central Asian states via Chitral.
Besides, it would also provide an alternative route for trade and business activities with China and make the region a hub of economic and foreign investment.
This project would bring revolutionary change in the lives of people of Chitral and also benefit the entire Malakand division and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The NHA officials said 400 meters excavation of the tunnel was done during the tenure of late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The project saw many ups and downs during last four decades, including change in the main design. Initially the project was designed for rail tunnel and later it was converted into a two-lane road tunnel.