ISLAMABAD, Sept 8: The federal government has approved the Rs1.1 billion Thar coal infrastructure development project that envisages rehabilitation of 219km of roads and construction of additional 51.6km roads to connect the area with other roads of the country.

Official sources told Dawn here on Wednesday that the project, sponsored by the Sindh government, would provide transport facility to 400 tons equipment/machinery for the Thar coal power plant project starting from Hyderabad to Sanghario via Islamkot.

The funding for the project, the Sindh government was assured, would be released shortly. However, the sources said that the Sindh government was expected to spend Rs1.1 billion - a total grant for the development of single link to connect Thar coal area with Karachi.

It was said that in the absence of proper geometric and pavement design, there was no assurance that the roads proposed for rehabilitation/construction would sustain the heavy load of the equipment/machinery.

The provincial government, therefore, was asked to bear the responsibility of the rehabilitated and constructed roads and that the design should be vetted by the National Highway Authority (NHA).

The Sindh authorities have informed the federal government that so far Rs284 million have been spent on the project with a view to complete the project by the end of the year.

The sources said that the initial work on the project has been undertaken by the Sindh government, although the Planning Commission wanted the NHA to construct roads according to the National Highway specifications which would have ensured judicious spending of the committed money.

Instead the government of Sindh started rehabilitating its own priority roads prior to the formal approval from the centre. The provincial government maintained that the need to make the proposed roads to subscribe to national highways did not establish. Nevertheless, it assumed full responsibility for the design and sustainability of the roads.

With regard to the routes, the Sindh government clarified that two routes were indicated in the PC-1 which started from Islamkot and terminated at Hyderabad via Mirpurkhas.

Before the selection of the routes, the transporters who had to transport the machinery were invited and they selected the longer route which was Islamkot-Chachro-Kantio-Umerkot-Mirpurkhas-Hyderabad for its plane topography and that it was, therefore, being rehabilitated through the length.

The other route was Islamkot-Mithi-Jhudo-Digri-Mirpurkhas- Hyderabad though shorter but full of thick sand dunes, which were likely to make the transportation of the machinery difficult. This route was being upgraded up to Mithi-Naukot for the purpose of food, fuel and other supplies from Karachi.