PM inspects under construction Lowari Tunnel

CHITRAL, Sept 7 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif  Wednesday visited the Lowari Tunnel and inspected the construction  activities underway.

The tunnel, situated 7200 feet above sea level, will be
completed by June 2017 at a cost of about Rs 26 billion.
The Prime Minister went inside the tunnel, disembarked from
the vehicle and observed the construction activity.

National Highway Authority (NHA) Chairman Shahid Ashraf Tarar briefed the Prime Minister regarding salient features of the project.

He said two tunnels of 8.5 kilometer and 1.9 km respectively
had been constructed under the project while approach roads of total 40 kilometer length were also being built on both sides of  the tunnel.

SAMBU, a Korean construction firm, started work on the
vital project in September 2005. However, the work was stopped in 2010 due to lack of funds and security reasons.

SAMBU resumed the construction work in October
2012 with the project converted into road tunnel from the railway.

Heavy machinery was being used to complete the project by
2017 as per the directives of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz  Sharif, the NHA Chairman said.

The NHA authorities at the site were optimistic about
the completion of the project according to deadline.

The Prime Minister was told that Rs 4.5 billion was approved
in the year 2015-16 and Rs 4.5 billion allocated in 2016-17 for  the project. Rs 1.1 billion had been spent so far in the current fiscal  year.

He was informed that some 75 per cent work on the project
had already been done as the Federal Government had accelerated  release of funds to complete it within the stipulated time  (June 2017).

Besides the construction of four bridges, link roads would
be constructed to take full advantage of the project.

With the construction of the Lowari Tunnel, it was told that
three hours time being consumed to cross Lowari Pass to reach  Chitral, would be reduced to only 15 minutes.

Over 500,000 population of Chitral would benefit from the longest tunnel of Pakistan, who at present reamined disconnected from rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the country for five to six months as Lowari Pass remained closed due to heavy snowfall in winter. The two-lane tunnel on completion  would connect Chitral with the rest of the country round the  year.

The Prime Minister was apprised that the project had
international significance as well because it would serve as
the major trading route to Central Asian states via Chitral.

Besides, it would also provide an alternative route for trade
and business activities with China and make the region a hub
of economic and foreign investment.

This project would bring revolutionary change in the
lives of people of Chitral and also benefit the entire Malakand
division and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The NHA officials said 400 meters excavation of the tunnel was done during the tenure of late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The project saw many ups and downs during last four
decades, including change in the main design.

Initially the  project was designed for rail tunnel and later it was  converted into a two-lane road tunnel.