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CPEC Western Corridor’s completion next year to boost economy of remote areas

By Our Correspondent
May 04, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The 292-km long mega Western Corridor project will help usher an era of economic prosperity in some of the country’s most underdeveloped regions, officials said Sunday.

China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) Chairman and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Lt-Gen (R) Asim Saleem Bajwa last week tweeted completion of 69 percent of work on a key leg of the Rs 212 billion worth Corridor project.

A four-lane expressway from Hakla near Islamabad to Dera Ismail Khan will reduce travel time between Dera Ismail Khan and Islamabad from five hours to two and half hours.

The first component following a virgin alignment was planned from Hakla near Islamabad from M-2 motorway to Yarik at border of KP and Balochistan. The second part of the corridor is 540 km Yarik-Zhob-Quetta National Highway to be upgraded to motorway standard, thus reducing distance from Islamabad to Quetta to only 830 kms and eight hours travel time on this new motorway standard four-lane expressway.

The estimated cost of upgrading Yarik to Quetta via Zhob section is Rs142b. The Hakla-Yarik section which has been reported to be 69% complete by the CPEC chairman will pass through Pindigheb, Tarap in Attock, Duadkhel and Isakhel in Mianwali, and Kundal, Abulkhail and Yarik in Dera Ismail Khan district.

The Hakla-Yarik section will have 12 interchanges at Dhok Sayedan, Thati Kalran (Fateh Jang), Kharpa (Pindigheb), Tarap (Jandh), Daud Khel, Kot Balian, Isakhel (Mianwali), Kundal, Abul Khail and Yarik in Dera Ismail Khan. The project has four service areas at distance of 60 kms, and three large bridges over Indus, Swan, and Khuram rivers.

National Highway Authority (NIH) monitoring documents available with The News show that the project for sake of speedy implementation was divided into five packages with each having a stretch of some 60 kms. Contracts were allocated to different parties.

Package One is from Yarik to Rehmani Khel measuring 55 kms and costing Rs13b. The contract has been awarded to National Logistics Cell (NLC), which has completed 85% of the work, as reported in NHA documents. The package was started in September 2016, and planned completion date was August 2018. It is expected to be completed by end of the year.

Package Two is from Rehmani Khel to Kot Balian spanning over 72 kms, and will cost Rs 28b. So far 75pc work on this key package has been completed. Work on this package started in July 2017, and is expected to be completed by April 2021.

This package is further sub-divided into four sub-packages and has been constructed by different contracting firms - SKB, Khalid Rauf & Co and SMADB-Sardar and Sharaf Balouch Company.

Package Three is from Kot Balian in Mianwali to Tarap in Attock. It is 52-km long, will cost Rs21b and 75% work on this section has been done so far. This component has two large bridges on the River Indus and Swan. The completion date is end-2020. The Frontier Works Organization is the contractor.

Package Four runs from Tarap to Pindigheb, is 51 km long and will cost Rs21.3b. Sixty-one percent work has been accomplished so far. The progress is relatively slow. It is expected to be complete by end-2020.

It is a joint venture between Limak and ZKB (Zahir Khan Brothers) contractors. Package Five is from Pindigheb to Hakla on M-2 in Islamabad. This component measures 63 kms and will cost about Rs17b. It is being constructed by the same joint venture and is the slowest with only 47% progress. It is expected to finish by end of 2020.

Cumulative cost of all five packages as per NHA documents is Rs110b. An amount of Rs12b has been spent on land acquisition for this state of the art motorway. In background discussions, the NHA and Planning Commission officials cite low financial allocations by the government as key reason for sluggish pace of work and delayed completion. In the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for 2019-2020 only Rs11.5b were allotted and only Rs2.5b have been released so far. Till date, an amount of Rs80b has been spent on this key inter-provincial project, they said and hoped that the western corridor would be completed fast after General Asim Bajwa took over as CPEC chairman.

Incidentally, the two areas which will be major beneficiaries of this mega project are the constituencies of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Mianwalli and Jamiat Ulemae Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Dera Ismail Khan. The officials say the western corridor is wholly financed by the Pakistan government development allocation in the PSDP.