ISLAMABAD: The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Monday approved the Balochistan Integrated Water Resource Management and Development Project at an updated cost of Rs22.2 billion.

The project – considered highly important with its location on Nari and Porali river basins – will cover almost one fourth of Balochistan and provide multiple benefits including clean drinking water facility, reducing the risk of floods, less erosion, more fuel wood, more fodder for livestock and saving endangered mangroves and juniper forests as well as enhanced agriculture productivity in the province.

The project would be completed in six years, with $200 million as foreign aid from the World Bank-affiliate International Development Association (IDA).

The Ecnec meeting, chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, also approved the Lowari Road Tunnel and Access Road Project at the revised cost of Rs27bn. The project is expected to complete by October 2017.

The meeting was informed that the project cost was revised due to increase in the width of the tunnel from 6 metres to 7.5 metres, with a clear height of 5 metres.

The scope of work also includes provision of ventilation and electrical works for road tunnel, construction of platforms, operational buildings along with allied facilities, installations and equipment for snow clearing.

The cost of the project also includes a foreign exchange component of Rs5870m. The National Highway Authority will be the executing authority for the project.

Related to the Lowari Tunnel Project, the ‘Improvement and Widening of N-45 Project’ was approved at a revised cost of Rs17.42bn. The project is located at Chakdara, Timergara, Akhagram, Dir Kalkatak, Chitral. Both Lowari Tunnel and N-45 Projects are expected to help in the development of the area and provide better facilities to the public.

The construction of Burhan-Havelian Expressway (E-35) was also approved at the revised cost of Rs34.2bn. The project is expected to be completed by September 2017.

The project cost has been revised due to addition of the third lane on either side of the already ongoing project for construction of 59.1km limited access controlled four lane divided motorway.

The revised project is being funded through the Asian Development Bank loan of $200m. The bank has also agreed to provide remaining loan amount for additional scope of work.

Ecnec also considered and approved the ‘Installation of Ship lift and Transfer System and Associated Machinery and Equipment to provide docking and repair facilities to surface ships, submarines and commercial vessels’ at the Karachi Shipyard at a revised and rationalised cost of Rs96bn, including a foreign exchange component of Rs36bn.

The facility will cater to commercial vessels up to 7781 tonnes of dead weight net lifting capacity along with establishment of 13 fully equipped repair stations. The project, currently under construction, will be completed by September 2017.

The Ecnec also approved construction of Lahore–Sialkot Motorway at a total cost of Rs45.4bn. The project will be complete in 27 months (Sept, 2016 – Dec, 2018), and envisages construction of 89 km, four-lanes access controlled motorway with 0.6metres New Jersey Barrier as median with allied facilities. The project will be operated on BOT basis.

The committee approved the procurement of 75 diesel electric locomotives project at the total cost of Rs45.5bn with foreign exchange component of Rs31.73bn. These will be completely built units (CBU) used for operation in freight and passenger operations.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2016