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Another bid to push Rs8 billion Benazir airport link road fails
10-03-2013, 01:19 PM
Post: #1
Another bid to push Rs8 billion Benazir airport link road fails
ISLAMABAD: An attempt by vested interests to get approval of Rs8 billion link road to the New Benazir Bhutto International Airport (NBBIA), by a high-level meeting chaired by Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Wednesday failed to succeed, as technical experts rejected it, describing it as a sheer wastage of public money.

“A Member of the National Highway Authority (NHA) and the NBBIA project director vehemently argued in favour of the lengthy and zigzag link road that will take left turn from the Kashmir Highway Toll Plaza, pass by Pakistan Army’s CMT&SD (Central Mechanical Transport & Stores Depot), cross the GT Road, go through the Sector I and then cross the Pakistan Motorway before reaching the NBBIA,” a participant of the meeting told The News.

However, the sources said, the technical experts of the Capital Development Authority and Planning Commission dismissed the arguments as inconsequential and said they would not approve violation of the Islamabad Master Plan according to which the Kashmir Highway goes straight to the NBBIA without any hurdles, bearing no extra burden on the government kitty.

It was pointed out in the meeting that no representative of the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA), which will have to answer pertinent questions about any congestion or impracticability of any link road with the NBBIA in future, has been invited. It was then decided that the RDA experts would attend next session on the issue and other related communication matters.

Already, it has been brought to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s notice that wastage of Rs8b has been planned on a link road just to serve the vested interest, being promoted by some NHA, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials and the NBBIA project director. A high-powered committee, most probably a ministerial body, is being constituted to take a decision on the matter.

The source said that at one stage Ahsan Iqbal asked why the CAA and the NHA members were strongly supporting the controversial link road when the technical experts were staunchly opposed to it.

Then, the source said, one proponent of the idea stated that since an emergency runway would also be built, the link road from the Kashmir Highway would not be good.

“Such a runway will surely be constructed, may be after 20 years, if at all it was built, the people going to and coming from the NBBIA can’t be subjected to harsh traffic hazards and torture,” another participant said.

However, he said they would present design of the new runway, which has not been prepared as yet, and only after that they would be in a position to give their opinion. However, they made it clear that the Master Plan, which was prepared after a lot of deliberations and studies, would not be disturbed.

The source said the NBBIA is already much behind schedule and as a result its cost has gone up three times the original estimates, a fact constantly resented by the Supreme Court. An additional runway would shoot up the cost. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, a member of a bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had remarked in the last hearing that if the court ordered arrest of some persons in the alleged corruption in the construction of the new airport, the NBBIA project director would be on top of the list.

Another official said that the actual organisations that are relevant to decide about the communication network with the NBBIA are the civic bodies like the CDA and RDA. Their opinion carries weight. Representatives of CAA, NHA, Communications Ministry, Punjab Planning & Development, CDA, Small Dams, Islamabad Electric Supply Company and other organisations attended the meeting. In its public response, the CDA has stated the most workable and practical route linking the NBBIA with Rawalpindi and Islamabad is through the Kashmir Highway, which links the Motorway Link Road up to Zero Point of Pakistan Motorway. Another additional 4-km road is to be built to connect the NBBIA from the Motorway to Zero Point. In anticipation of the traffic from the new airport on to the Kashmir Highway, the CDA has already started widening it. The RDA too has publicly strongly rejected the proposed new route.
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