RAWALPINDI: Amid the ongoing rain spell, the retaining wall on Grand Trunk Road (recently named as Potohar Avenue) adjacent to the under-construction Soan Bridge caved in on Sunday morning, sending three heavy machinery hundreds of feet down the road beside the Leh Nullah. Three people were also injured.
The executing agency National Highway Authority (NHA) and contractor National Logistic Cell (NLC) termed the ‘landslide’ after heavy rains the main reason for the collapse of the retaining wall which was constructed recently. However, the commissioner was told that the wall was built by the previous contractor and its foundation was weak.
A senior official of the district administration told Dawn that as per the reports, the work on the foundation of the retaining wall was not good enough and it collapsed due to a landslide after heavy rains. He said that the wall sustained damages on three sides and after it collapsed, cracks also appeared on the main road. He said that a detailed report of the incident had been sought from the executing agency and the contractor.
NHA spokesman Umair Khan said it was the responsibility of the contractor to repair the collapsed wall. He said that the project was given to NLC for the reconstruction of G.T. Road from Kutchary Chowk to Rawat and till the completion of the construction work, it will be responsible for the repair work.
Three injured as incident leaves traffic in a mess; official blames it on ‘landslide’
Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chatha also took notice of the incident and asked the traffic police to shut the road for heavy traffic till the repair work is completed. “The retaining wall was collapsed and the contractor informed that the foundation of the wall was weak and it could not bear the landslide after heavy rain over the last two days,” he said while talking to Dawn.
According to the information given to the commissioner, the retaining wall was reportedly constructed by the former contractor and its foundation was weak.
However, NLC took the contract from NHA after the former contractor left the work incomplete and now it would repair all the work done by the previous contractor. Separately, a senior official said those responsible for negligence would be identified and brought to justice.
Meanwhile, the incident left the traffic on Potohar Avenue in a mess. Traffic on both tracks — already facing disruption due to the construction work on Soan Bridge — was redirected to one side of the road, causing difficulties for thousands of commuters. Additional traffic wardens were dispatched to regulate traffic but they were helpless.
This is not the first accident in Soan in recent months. On June 26, a pillar and girders of the under-construction bridge over the Soan River collapsed whose reconstruction took months and the road was open a month back for the traffic.
Fortunately, no vehicles were passing when a very large crater was created at the start of the bridge after the pillar collapsed due to erosion.
The officials said that the coordination of the Punjab Highway Department, NHA and other authorities was required, especially during the rainy season, to ensure the flow of traffic and to avoid any untoward incident.
It may be noted that at least three construction projects are being carried out in the area: the extension of the bridge, parking lanes for the Lahore High Court, and the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Phase-I service road.
Residents of housing societies located between Rawat and Kutchary Chowk and commuters have expressed disappointment at the sluggish pace of work as well as poor planning.
They said that the widening of the bridges started in 2017 was scheduled to be completed in January 2022, but it was repeatedly delayed. Now, it is likely to be completed in 2024 because as per the officials concerned the monsoon rains were “hampering the construction work”.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023