‘Light at end of Lowari Tunnel’

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‘Light at end of Lowari Tunnel’

LOWARI TUNNEL (Chitral), Sep 18 (APP): The blackened machinery at the mouth of belated under construction 8.5 kms Lowari road tunnel on the side of Chitral district huffed and puffed sending plumes of occasional grey clouds of smoke into the air and the earth shaking cranes creaking and squeaking under their enormous size were making their ways on the rough craggy monstrous mountains of Hindu Kush range to perform multiple tasks.

There were ‘men at work’ quite oblivious to the strong odour of oil penetrating the area and it appeared they were disinterested in everything except to wind up the task well before dusk.

Journey from Chitral to the construction site took about 3-4 hours on a serpentine road, meandering through the lush green valleys and the singing cascades dotting the panoramic view every now and then. Seasonal fruit scent of pink apples and juicy pears permeates the gentle cool gusts of wind circulating the whole valley all day long.

At the feet of mighty Hindu Kush range, the brazen human activities to dig deep into the Mother Nature by connecting the two districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ie; Chitral and Upper Dir are really miracle for the beholders.

The local administration was kind enough to enable mediamen travel through the under construction 8.5 kms road tunnel where after a brief journey, a Korean supervisor enquired and welcomed us. Then suddenly he giggled and told that the Prime Minister of Pakistan had also inspected the site few days back.

The local workers inside wearing safety gadgets were busy with their tools and machinery to complete the specific work while above, the ventilation system was functional to keep supply of fresh air inside the tunnel.

No one can question the dedication and determination of the workers busy in the soggy, chilly and smoggy conditions as they were building a landmark construction for the future generations.

Located near the Lowari top at the height of about 7,200 feet and considered a low pass when compared with other four passes located in Chitral, the route had been a popular shortest traditional way to reach Peshawar.

But the snowfall during the winter season completely turns the area into avalanche-prone, making it impossible for the populace on both sides of the mountains to cross over. Still as the people narrate, they tried to cross it in haphazard manner, losing numerous precious lives in the past.

Feeling the pangs of complete alienation during the winter falls, the voice over the situation was raised during 1956 by a member of the parliament elected from the area and given heed by late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government to construct the tunnel.

But the ‘ifs and buts’ made the completion of the project a distant dream, multiplying miseries for the local growing population over a span of many decades. The work was resumed during 2005 but again halted.

It was after 2013, that the situation improved and the federal government expedited construction work with supply of required funds, an official in the local administration comments.

Earlier, it was envisioned to open up the communication link between two districts through rail tunnel but later it was altered into the road tunnel project to facilitate the transportation means.

Recently, the construction work under the supervision of National Highway Authority and executed by the Korean company SAMBU witnessed a rapid pace and at last, there will be a light at the end of the Lowari tunnel.

Making it to other side of the tunnel in Upper Dir area after about one hour drive, a warm smiling Deputy director of the project Mukesh Kumar greeted the media team.

He informed that so far about Rs 18 billions were spent out of about Rs 26 billion allocated amount on the 8.5kms project being completed by the Korean company.

He attributed fast-track completion work to the keen interest of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.

The ambitious project, he said, being accomplished at the heels of mighty mountains would improve communication and transportation linkage between Chitral and Dir by reducing the travel time and alleviating miseries of commuters.

Citing reasons for inordinate delay in its earlier completion, Kumar said the project hit snags due to paucity of funds, but now it would be ready by June 2017 as the federal government had provided them the requisite funds.

Lowari Tunnel will be all-weather road link between Chitral valley and the rest of the country, providing an opportunity to explore the hydro power potentials in Chitral valley.

The tunnel besides, reducing poverty, would provide better access to markets and become instrumental in the development of tourism industry of the country.

It will help greatly in tapping large potential area of mineral resources, forest product industries, fruits and agriculture, livestock and other mineral based industries.