CHITRAL: The suspension of work on the approach road of Lowari Tunnel on Chitral side for the last six month has irked motorists and commuters using the section of the 20km road.

They complained that the road had ditches rendering turning the journey not only uncomfortable but risky as well.

The road users criticised the executing agency, National Highway Authority, for what they called abandoning the project to their misery, especially ahead of snowy days.

They said work on the 20km approach road on Dir side of the road was in full swing and was likely to be completed by next June but on the Chitral side, the construction company had moved the machinery to the down country with the NHA completely ignoring it.

Official says construction to resume after winter season

The commuters said work on the Chitral side of the road was moving at a snail’s pace from its start and under the plans, it was to be completed two years ago.

They said as the road passed through a high altitude in Lowari Pass, it received a heavy snowfall every year and if repair and maintenance was not carried out by contractors, travellers would be troubled.

The road users also complained about the ‘poor’ quality of work.

A civil engineer in a government organisation said masonry made the work highly vulnerable to floods as it could hardly withstand the boulders.

He said only reinforced cement concrete structures could survive flash floods in the hilly terrain.

When contacted, Lowari Tunnel project director Rafiq Alam said work came to a halt after the owner of the Usmania Associates construction company passed away, while there followed litigation among his heirs for succession.

He said under the agreement, the NHA had to wait for few months for the settlement of the succession issue, so time period for the completion of work was extended to July 30 next year, while payment for the work done was made to the company.

The project director said concrete work couldn’t be carried out during the winter season, so the contractor would resume work in next March.

“We will ensure that the contractor maintains the smoothness of the road surface for vehicular traffic and readily clear snow from the road to keep traffic moving to the relief of road users,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2019