CHAKWAL: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Member National Assembly (MNA) from NA 64 (Chakwal I) Sardar Zulifqar Ali Khan Dullah on Saturday launched northern bypass project originally announced and approved by the previous Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) government in 2014.
But the launching of the 22km bypass starting from Behkri village and now ending up at Thoha Bahadur Bypass near Balkassar Interchange of Lahore-Islamabad Motorway has baffled the officials and natives of many villages as neither the land acquisition process has been initiated nor the revised PC-1 approved by the Planning Commission.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced the construction of the northern bypass on July 16, 2014.
The primary purpose of the bypass was to save Chakwal from heavy vehicles which pass through the city after getting loaded with cement and coal in the Salt Range.
The 14km bypass was first designed to stretch from Behkri village to Talagang Road near Murid Airbase. It was supposed to be constructed at a cost of Rs1 billion. However, construction work could not be started during the tenure of the PML-N government.
After the PTI came into power, MNA Dullah did not like the approved route and sought a drastic change to it. He managed to get the route changed as now the bypass would end up at Thoha Bahadur Bypass near Balkassar Interchange.
The change in the route has also increased the cost of the bypass by three times. Now not only its distance has been increased from 14km to 22km but also new bridges and a flyover have to be constructed on the route.
“We have sent a revised PC-1 to the Planning Commission for approval. The revised cost has been estimated to be about Rs3.5 billion,” an official of Public Works Department (PWD) told Dawn.
As the alignment of the bypass has been changed, at least 13km land falling in seven villages is yet to be acquired.
“The process of land acquisition is a tough and lengthy one,” said an official. He added that keeping in view the current economic situation, the approval of the revised PC-1 would also be a hectic job.
“If the revised PC-1 is turned down, we will have to revert to the old alignment.”
Another official termed the new route non-beneficial for the city. “The original purpose of the bypass was to save Chakwal from the influx of heavy traffic but now as the route has been changed the heavy traffic would continue passing through the city,” he said.
PWD has Rs700m which was allocated by the previous government for the bypass. If this money is not spent before June 30, it would lapse.
“In the first phase, a nine-km patch of the bypass from Behkri to Dhakku would be constructed while work on the next phase would be started when the revised PC-1 is approved,” explained the official.
However, addressing the launching ceremony, MNA Dullah said the construction work would be started soon.
“Three contractors have reached and the work would be started soon,” he maintained.
Deputy Commissioner retired Capt Abdul Sattar Esani told Dawn that work would be done on the acquired land in the first phase.
“The process of land acquisition for the second phase would be initiated soon,” he added.
Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2019