RAWALPINDI, July 22: The Punjab Communication and Works Department has declared the Leh Nullah bridge at Benazir Bhutto Road safe and fit for vehicular movement and said there was no need to demolish it.
A C&W department team of engineers from Lahore visited the city after receiving a report from the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) that the bridge was outdated and needed replacement and said the bridge was fit for vehicular movement for another 20 years.
MNA Malik Shakil Awan told Dawn that during the meeting held last week under the chairmanship of Punjab Planning and Development Chairman Chaudhry Aslam to review the Leh Expressway Project, the FWO had raised the point that the bridge connecting Marrir Chowk to Liaquat Bagh had reached the last stage of its life after over 60 years.
“The FWO suggested that the government should demolish the old structure and construct a new bridge which would also help the construction company to connect the Leh Expressway with Benazir Bhutto Road at Moti Mahal Cinema stop,” he said.
The C&W department experts, however, reported that the bridge was still able to bear the burden due to the better construction quality.
He said the construction company had also suggested to raise the height of all the bridges over Leh Nullah by another four feet to avoid a flood-like situation. He said the provincial government was not interested in raising the height of the bridges as it wanted to spend money on the dredging of the nullah which would clear all the hurdles.
The MNA, who is also a member of the executive body of Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA), said the civic agency was working on a feasibility study to start work on the expressway, adding the cost of the project had increased from Rs17 billion to Rs24 billion.
“In 2007, the then President Pervez Musharraf had announced that 50 per cent of the funds for the project would be provided by the federal government and the remaining 50 per cent would be borne by the Punjab government, but later the PPP-led federal government refused to provide the amount,” he said.
When contacted, the executive engineer of the C&W department, Farhat Munir said: “According to our experts, there is no need to demolish the old bridge as it is fit for vehicular movement.”
He also said there was no need to raise the heights of bridges over Leh Nullah as it would disturb the road networks in the city.
District Coordination Officer Saqib Zafar said though the C&W department had declared the bridge safe, it would need demolition when Benazir Bhutto Road would be linked with Leh Nullah Expressway.
He said the city government or the Punjab government was not in a mood to demolish the structure too early. However, he said the government was considering the option to raise the height of existing bridges over Leh Nullah to avoid flooding.