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February 19, 2018

PDA officials work round-the-clock to complete BRT by April 20


February 19, 2018

PESHAWAR: It is a Sunday but the Peshawar Development Authority premises located in Hayatabad is a busy place even on a public holiday.

The reason is the Rapid Bus Transit (BRT) project that must be completed by April 20. It is a race against time as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has put its reputation at stake by announcing that it would be completed in a record six months.

As work on the project was inaugurated by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on November 19, 2017, the 26-kilometres long bus way having 31 stations ought to be completed by April 20. This is the promise made by the chief minister who is used to giving difficult-to-meet deadlines for executing projects in record time. Earlier, he had ensured the completion of the Bab-i-Peshawar Flyover costing Rs1.72 billion in a record five months. However, questions continue to be raised about the quality of work.

“We have diverted 70 to 80 percent of our resources to the BRT. We are focused on completing the project and also ensuring quality work,” remarked Israrul Haq, the new Director General (DG) of the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA).

Israrul Haq replaced Muhammad Saleem Hasan Wattoo, who faced inquiries by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after being accused of misusing his powers. It is a challenging job, but the PDA DG seems determined to do well.

As he met visitors, including a delegation of Hayatabad residents, Israrul Haq talked about the BRT project that the PDA is executing and expressed confidence that it would be completed in time. He said there are no weekly off-days for him and his staff as work on the project is being done round-the-clock. He pointed out that certain changes and additions have been made to the BRT, like building the flyover at Tehkal and an underpass at the University Town, but the completion date hasn’t been changed.

His confidence isn’t shared by many people who claim to be aware of the deficiencies in the BRT and have doubts that such a gigantic project costing Rs49 billion would be completed in six months. There is already talk of a one-year delay, cost overruns or managing completion of part of the project and getting it inaugurated before the incumbent elected government gives way to caretakers who would be overseeing the July 2018 general election. The government wanted to complete the BRT before the polls so that it could claim credit for it to woo voters. The construction work has created traffic chaos in Peshawar, but many people appear willing to bear discomfort in the hope that the BRT would change the city’s face and facilitate commuters. A delay in BRT’s completion could alienate voters, particularly in Peshawar as they had been given to understand that their suffering because of the disturbance in daily life due to the BRT would end in six months.

The PDA offices are the nerve-centre of the feverish activity relating to the BRT. And luck has placed Israrul Haq at the centre of the plans to execute the BRT project not only in time, but also in terms of quality. However, the PDA is dependent on many others to make this work. The Asian Development Bank, which gave a huge loan for the BRT, has to be consulted. The contractors too need to be on board.

Israrul Haq, who was director general monitoring and evaluation wing at the provincial planning and development department before his appointment as head of PDA in October last year, said he hasn’t lost sight of his primary responsibility to improve and sustain civic services in localities like Hayatabad even while focusing on completion of the BRT in time. He talked animatedly to the delegation of Hayatabad residents about making a big effort to plant saplings during the forthcoming spring plantation drive in the town and elsewhere, including the nearly 50 kilometres long Ring Road. Besides, he said ensuring safe drinking water supply, maintaining parks and cleanliness, and improving security were some of his priorities. He pointed out that carpeting of most of the roads in Hayatabad’s Phase 6 and 7 was underway and the work would be extended later to other phases, the Hayatabad boundary wall would be repaired and rebuilt and search lights installed on it, and 10 motorcycle trolleys costing Rs175,000 each have been introduced on an experimental basis a month ago to collect garbage in the congested streets of Hayatabad Phase 1.

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