ISLAMABAD: A 400-metre portion of the newly-constructed Bhara Kahu bypass – a pet project of then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif – has developed a ‘compaction’ fault after which one of its tracks has been closed to traffic moving towards Murree.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) said the traffic was being diverted to the other side of the road and repair was underway by the contractor.

“Yes, a portion of the road faced some compaction issues and settlements, now it is being redone by the contractor. Settlements often occur on newly constructed roads,” said an officer of the CDA. He claimed the contractor – National Logistics Cell – was doing the said work through its resources and the CDA had provided no funding for the said task.

It is relevant to note here the said mega project was completed in just 10 months as the federal government wanted to get the project completed as soon as possible. The original cost of the project was Rs6.5 billion; however, the scope of the project was expanded. Recently, the CDA board was told that the NLC had moved a bill worth Rs1.8 billion against the additional work.

CDA official says cost of project has increased to over Rs7bn due to additional work

The CDA had referred the bill to the consultant firm of the Punjab government, which endorsed the additional work and recommended the approval of Rs1.3 billion. The board after approving the recommendation of the consultant directed the engineering wing to place the issue before the CDA’s Development Working Party (DWP) for the final approval.

“So technically when the amount of additional work is added, then the cost increases to Rs7.8 billion,” said an official of the CDA finance wing.

This is not the first time that the project has run into a hiccup. Due to the special interest of the then-premier, the CDA and the NLC did round-the-clock work and this over-efficiency also contributed to at least two accidents during the construction of the bypass.

The mega project considered a blessing for the residents of Murree and Bhara Kahu provided a much-needed respite from traffic jams which were a routine feature of the Bhara Kahu bazaar before its inauguration in August 2023.

To provide relief to the public, the PDM government led by Shehbaz Sharif started this project and got it completed in August last year. The road was opened to traffic in August last year but only for light traffic. An official said that after the repair work, this road should be opened for heavy traffic as well to get the maximum benefit of this mega project.

“I am surprised to see such a fault on this road, which is said to be constructed with billions of rupees. We request the government to complete this repair work for the smooth flow of traffic,” said Rizwan Ahmed, a resident of Bhara Kahu.

A CDA officer assured that the word would be completed within a few days. They added that at present the traffic was diverted to one side of the road with the help of reflectors and dividers. “There is no need to be worried,” the official claimed.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2024

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