ISLAMABAD: The much-awaited western route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which was supposed to be completed by this month, remains a victim of official neglect as non-payment of dues and some technical reasons have stalled work on the Rs110 billion project, the Senate Standing Committee on Communications was informed on Monday.
The National Highway Authority (NHA), which is an executing agency of the project, complained that the government had not released all the fund allocated under the Public Sector Development Programme, as the finance ministry slashed it to recover interest on Rs1.5 trillion loans obtained by the authority for infrastructure and development projects.
Of the seven sections of the western route, work on two sections (4 and 5) had been stopped by the contractor owing to non-payment of dues and faulty design, the Senate body was informed. It was apprised that over 60 per cent work had been completed on the entire western route but only Rs11.5bn had been allocated against the total cost of Rs110bn.
It was learnt that the contractor had done over 90pc work on section-4 of the project and was seeking to win the prize [of 5pc of the project cost] by completing the entire section before the stipulated deadline. In a six-km-long hilly patch, the contractor due to a ‘faulty’ design had to cut a cliff 18-foot deep, whereas the NHA was not ready to pay him the money for stone cutting, compelling him to leave the project incomplete. A similar situation exists as far as the work on section-5 is concerned.
The Senate body was informed that 60pc work on the project had been completed almost a year ago, but due to non-payment of funds and lack of ‘political will’ the project was in the doldrums.
Senator Ahmed Khan, a member of the standing committee, said non-payment of dues was a major cause of delay in work, whereas the project was supposed to be completed by December 2019. He apprehended that the project might delay by another year or two if the funds were not released to the contractors.
Later, a finance ministry official assured the committee that on a directive of Prime Minister Imran Khan, “more funds” were being released to the NHA and other ministries.
Payment of dues
The Senate committee also directed the NHA to pay dues to the owners of the land, which had been acquired some 18 years ago for the construction of a road from Kaghan to Babu Sar Top, as per current market rate.
However, NHA chairman Sikandar Qayyum said: “Our rules do not allow us to pay them the present market price.” Yet he would abide by the decision to be taken by the Senate committee, he added.
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2019