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Friday May 20, 2022

Another earthquake passed without shaking KP govt on Balakot project

ISLAMABAD: Although Monday’s earthquake was a chilling reminder of the havoc it played right 10 years ago this month, the tremors have failed to trigger any debate on the future of developing new Balakot City.This project announced in 2007 is in doldrums while the old one demolished in 2005 earthquake

October 27, 2015
ISLAMABAD: Although Monday’s earthquake was a chilling reminder of the havoc it played right 10 years ago this month, the tremors have failed to trigger any debate on the future of developing new Balakot City.
This project announced in 2007 is in doldrums while the old one demolished in 2005 earthquake is situated on the fault line.
Background discussions reveal that more than 100 letters that Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) sent to different authorities of Khyber-Pakhtunkhaw (KP) in last one year alone were not sufficient enough to secure KP government’s help for vacating the land already purchased for the project.
While Rs1.5 billion compensation of the land for the new city has been paid to the owners, the authorities have failed to acquire the designated land whereas the developers hired for the project are running into losses and the cost is escalating by the day. Several meetings between ERRA and KP government spanning five-year have failed to make any headway.
A study conducted by international experts identified as many as 11 cities situated on the fault-line thus vulnerable to mass-scale devastation in the event of high-intensity earthquake.
Balakot is included among them. Others areas on the fault-line are Chitral, Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Gilgit-Baltistan, Quetta, Ziarat, Pishin, Bostan and Muslim Bagh.
Out of these cities, Muzaffarabad had suffered severe devastation due to October 2005’s earthquake, Balakot was almost razed to ground then. The federal government had decided to rebuild the new Balakot City to avoid such a colossal loss in the future and contract was awarded in 2007 with a target of completion by 2010.
Now, when half of 2015 has also passed, there is no major progress in sight giving credence to speculations that project may not complete even in the next five-years due to the political reasons. While the contractor company is suffering huge financial losses due to the inordinate

delays, the residents are exposed to the recurrence of tragic-like situation.
As the execution of the project started, the first challenge was to purchase land for the site of the new city located at 20-kilometers away at a safer place from the existing location. Earthquake-proof buildings were to be constructed. The amount of Rs1.5 billion allocated for buying land was handed over to the KP government in 2008 that disbursed the money to the owners but failed in acquiring land from them. The Erra that is dealing on behalf of the federal government launched an operation to vacate the land in September 2009 and met a stiff resistance in shape of attacks. The retaliation from the government machinery then left three persons injured and one killed.
The efforts resumed in October 2010 that received a little success as 14% land could be cleared. The new city is divided in five sectors from A to E. The area allocated for the sectors A, B and E is still under the occupation of the landlords who had received money but are reluctant to hand over.
A blame-game is going on between the federal and provincial government regarding the failure on vacating the area as Erra complains against the lack of cooperation from the KP government for vacating the land as it has to be done through police force. Around a dozen high-level meetings have been held in vain to sort out the issues plaguing the progress on this project.
Disappointed by the government, many residents have reconstructed their houses in the old city. While the building codes were introduced for strict implementation in the vulnerable areas, they are being violated with impunity.
Developments funds are also being invested in the old city for setting up schools and hospitals instead of focusing on the new city. Regardless the fact that who is prime culprit in delaying this project, the lack of political will is exposing the residents of this area to another tragic-like situation.

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