Peshawar BRT

Published December 24, 2018

WORK on the highly anticipated Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project was supposed to have come to an end in July 2018. This was then postponed to September. Now it has been announced that all construction will (hopefully) conclude on March 23, 2019. With the general elections looming at the time, and political pressure building on the provincial government to perform, the project was initiated in haste by the PTI in October 2017. The 26km-long route that runs from Chamkani till Hayatabad was supposed to compete with Lahore’s mass transit infrastructure, but it keeps undergoing changes and delays, with its timeline for completion constantly lengthening. Additionally, the loan of Rs49bn taken from the Asian Development Bank has now risen to over Rs68bn. The project has suffered from what is evidently a clear case of mismanagement, poor planning and political hubris. The initial design proved to be flawed, as the constructers apparently did not take Peshawar’s cityscape into consideration. Consequently, the design has thus far seen 11 changes and more are expected. Some previous construction was also demolished to make way for the new infrastructure. The Peshawar High Court has repeatedly asked the government to expedite matters, as many residents have been inconvenienced by the work being carried out on the historic Grand Trunk Road, the city’s main artery and economic lifeline, and the already developed, upscale Hayatabad residency.

The Environment Protection Agency has also expressed its concerns, since construction on the site has led to increased dust and pollution in the air. Earlier this month, Peshawar’s chief traffic officer wrote a letter to the Peshawar Development Authority director general asking for medical treatment for some 400 traffic wardens suffering from pulmonary and eye problems. Environmental concerns are further exacerbated by the fact that centuries-old trees along the GT Road and the traditionally green Hayatabad locality have been razed to make way for the project. According to the PDA, around 25,000 trees have been cut down. But perhaps the most relevant question is: when all the work is complete and we have the finished project before us, will its presence actually fix Peshawar’s traffic problems or exacerbate it? When the chief secretary was summoned at a hearing by the Peshawar High Court and asked if he could give assurances that the project would benefit the residents and not inconvenience them further, he said he could not. That’s not a very promising thought.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2018



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