The National Highway Council (NHC) on Thursday approved next five-year plan (2018-2023) and according to which new highways and motorways schemes worth Rs 1.059 trillion would be carried out in the country, it is learnt. Official sources revealed to Business Recorder that Federal Minister for Communications Hafiz Abdul Karim presided over the meeting of NHC. Minister of State for Communications Muhammad Junaid Chaudhry, secretary communications, chairman National Highway Authority and other members of the council participated in the meeting.
The five-year plan was earlier approved by the NHA Executive Board and presented in the NHC meeting for final approval on Thursday. The total estimated cost of schemes included in the five-year plan (2013-18) and to be completed in next five-year plan (2018-23) is Rs 1,396.860 billion leaving a throw-forward amount of Rs 526.257 billion. Estimated cost of the new schemes proposed for next five-year plan (2018-23) is Rs 1,059.610 billion.
The outcome after completion of both the plans in terms of maintenance, rehabilitation/ improvement and construction of highways, expressway, motorways, tunnels, bridges is given as construction of highways, 5,196km, expressways, 1,300km motorways, 1,964km, major bridges, 36, tunnels, 7, and rehabilitation/improvement, 4,903km.
The meeting was further informed that under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) around Rs 320 billion were allocated for the year 2017-18. The total number of projects is 85 which are currently under various phases of execution and included 72 ongoing and 13 new projects. In addition, Rs 2.46 billion were allocated as maintenance grant for the annual maintenance of national highways including Rs 0.25 billion for KKH Thakot-Kunjerab road and Rs 0.075 billion for KKH-Skardu road.
Chairman NHA Shahid Ashraf Tarar informed the meeting that the organization has been able to steadily increase its revenue share to around Rs 25 billion over the last three years, thanks to the introduction of financial and administrative reforms.
He said the PSDP allocation of NHA had increased tremendously over the last few years which can be assessed easily from the fact that it stood at Rs 63 billion in 2013-14 but rose to Rs 320 billion in 2017-18.
He said this reflected the increasing confidence of the federal government in NHA's ability regarding the most appropriate utilization of the allocated funds. He said NHA is currently executing projects worth over Rs 1,400 billion scattered in all parts of the country. He said a vast network of motorways is being established under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that upon completion in next two years, will take the overall motorway length in Pakistan to over 2400km.
The council also approved the process of reform and restructuring initiated at National Highway Authority under which power has been decentralized from the headquarter to the four main zones of Central (Punjab), North (KPK), West (Balochistan) and South (Sindh), each headed by a member (engr). The chairman NHA informed the meeting that the prime objective of the restructuring process is to enhance the institutional capacity to ensure the efficient implementation and monitoring of the development projects.
The council also discussed in detail the problem of overloading and the resulting damage it is doing to the road network. The chairman informed the meeting that major part of the development activity will be completed in the next five years with the completion of all the ongoing and planned projects. It is, therefore, necessary to take immediate steps to overcome the problem of overloading to keep the highways and motorways in safe condition. The council decided to form a steering committee at the ministry to review the efforts already made in this regard and to chalk out a future course of action. The committee would include representatives from Ministry of Communications, National Highway Authority and Motorway Police, besides private sector experts, to hold negotiations with all the stakeholders and ensure the implementation of National Highway Safety Ordinance-2000.
The council also approved the proposal for the time-scale promotion of NHA employees, enhancement in rental ceiling for low-paid employees to up to Rs 10,000 and admissibility of utility allowance. The National Highway Council, unanimously, acknowledged the services of the outgoing chairman and his role in the successful and in time completion of mega road projects initiated in the last four years.
The federal minister, in his concluding remarks, said that without chairman NHA's dynamic leadership, management skills, honesty and hard work, the giant task of successfully executing the historic motorway network could not have been possible.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2017