HARIPUR: The much trumpeted dry port and cargo handling projects in Haripur district could not be initiated even after their approval by the relevant authorities about five years ago.

The projects continued to face delay as the Chinese and Pakistani consultants found the site of Baldher not feasible for execution of the schemes, according to sources.

They said that the consultants recommended relocation of the projects to Kotnajibullah Railway Station, about11 kilometres away from the Haripur main city.

According to official documents, the Executive Committee of National Economic Council had approved on April 12, 2017, preliminary design for upgradation and rehabilitation of the main line (ML-1) and establishment of dry port near Baldher Railway Station under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor at an estimated cost of more than Rs10,641 million involving no foreign aid.

Consultants suggest relocation of project to Kotnajibullah from Baldher railway station

The project of Baldher dry port was to be completed within eight and half years.

Pakistan Railways Advisory and Consultancy Services (PRACS) during the first quarter of 2018 conducted the feasibility survey and proposed acquisition of 260 acres of land from the villages of Baldhair, Bagra No.2, Dobandi and Kholian.

The rates of the land, however, drew opposition from the owners. They rejected the package and termed it much below the market rates.

Sources said that the designing of dry port and other infrastructure besides allaying the apprehensions of the landowners were under way when the activities suddenly halted owing to departure of Chinese engineers in February 2020. The Chinese engineers engaged for the designing of ML-I and dry port did not come back due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions in both the countries.

The Project Implementation Unit recommended revising the design of the dry port so that maximum land of Pakistan Railways could be utilised for the purpose.

Sources said that the Chinese and Pakistani consultants revisited the site several times and claimed that Baldher Railway Station was not feasible for establishment of the dry port. They approved Kotnajibullah Railway Station as a suitable place for the project.

However, it is not yet clear when the implementation unit would start construction work.

“The reason behind relocation of the project to Kotnajibullah is that the maximum land required for it is available there as the property of Pakistan Railways. Secondly the interchange of Hazara Motorway is at a stone’s throw from Kotnajibullah,” said Mohammad Shafiq, the infrastructure specialist of Project Implementation Unit under CPEC.

He told this scribe Pakistan Railway’s land was available in Kotnajibullah and the new site was going to cause hardly any disturbance to the local communities.

However, he was not sure when work on the project would be started. He said that the authorities were focusing on the first phase of ML-1 that required improvement of the existing railway facilities, which was under way from Sindh’s side.

“At a later stage the dry port project would b taken up for completion,” said Mr Shafiq. He added that the dry port would be completed within eight and half years after start of work on it.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2022

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