ISLAMABAD, Oct 7: The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) has said that the reconstruction and rehabilitation programme of the earthquake-affected areas is on track.

Talking to Dawn, Erra deputy-chairman Lt-Gen Nadeem Ahmed rejected criticism about the pace of work. He termed the allegations unfair and said that great progress had been made, given the magnitude of the disaster.

He said 92,000 quake-resistant houses had been completed and another 250,000 were in various stages of completion. He said every family in the affected areas would have a house in six months.

Mr Ahmed said master plans for reconstruction of four severely destroyed cities -- Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Rawalakot in the AJK and Balakot in the NWFP -- had been prepared and were in initial stages of implementation. Micro-planning of all five blocks of Muzaffarabad city had been completed and land acquisition for the satellite town was under process, he said, adding that the project concept had been cleared by the Planning Division and an Umbrella PC-1 was being prepared.

He said that a master plan for Bagh had been finalised and approved by all stakeholders. Micro planning had been entrusted to NESPAK and land acquisition was in progress. Rawalakot was being developed as a regional tourist attraction, for which broad parameters of strategy had been finalised, he added.

Land acquisition

Mr Ahmed said the land acquisition process for the new Balakot city was in progress and an amount of Rs375 million had so far been allocated for the purpose. The new Balakot city would be developed as a gateway to Kaghan and Siran valleys, he added.

He said 12 Housing Reconstruction Centres were currently operating to provide necessary assistance in reconstruction of private houses. Under a comprehensive training programme, some 310,436 people had been imparted general training, 199,686 in construction skills such as masonry, plumbing, carpentry and steel fixing and as electrician. Social mobilisation training was provided to 110,750 persons at the union council level to encourage participatory development and ownership of projects by communities, he added.

Lt-Gen Ahmed said 139 construction material hubs were operating in the quake-hit areas to ensure uninterrupted supply of material to the construction sector.

The Erra official said a survey targeting vulnerable groups was currently under way and its findings would be available in February next year. He said the Asian Development Bank had pledged to provide Rs36 million for the project.

He said the Legal Aid Cells at tehsil level would be operational in November this year with ADB assistance to provide free legal assistance to vulnerable population in the affected areas.

The Erra was considering a proposal to fund the construction of social welfare complexes in the affected districts to strengthen the existing social welfare infrastructure by integrating the offices and service centres in one premises, he said.

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