ISLAMABAD: Following Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s announcement of a historic development package for Gilgit Baltistan (GB), the federal government has also included the 216-kilometre Shandur-Gilgit road into the Rs370 billion package.
According to an official at the Planning Development and Special Initiatives Department, the Rs50 billion road which is also being considered as an alternative route to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), would be completed under the umbrella of the Integrated GB Development Plan 2021-26.
As per officials, the cost of the road was earlier estimated to be Rs45 billion.
The project PC-1 has been submitted to the Planning Commission for subsequent approval from Central Development Working Party (CDWP) and Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC).
According to documents available with this scribe, the Ministry of Communication on April 22, submitted the PC-1 of the project to the Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives for consideration in the upcoming Central Development Working Party (CDWP) and Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting.
The new road would be an all-weather road, providing an alternative route to CPEC during the winter when the Silk Route is closed due to snowfall.
After Lowari Tunnel, the project will be another top notch and time saving route for travelling to the region.
The total length of the road is 363km, of which 216 km are in GB’s territory.
The KP government had approved handing over these projects to the federal government in March 2019.
According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Communication, the federal cabinet on May 6 approved the federalisation of Chitral to Mastuj, Shandur and Gilgit road and Chitral to Garam Chashma, Dorah Pass road.
After federalisation, the road from Chitral to Gilgit will be called N-140.
On completion, the road also has the potential of serving as an alternate of the Karakoram Highway for trade and traffic.
Apart from the Shandur route, the government is going to consider another major route connecting China under CPEC. This route would be around 350km shorter than the existing route via Khunjerab pass.
In this regard, Gilgit Baltistan’s Works Department, through a letter on January 8, was asked to prepare a concept clearance proposal for the new route which would pass through Shigar, Skardu and Astor districts and connect to Muzaffarabad district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
Moreover, the concerned departments in these districts have also been asked to submit the concept clearance proposals for the construction of a 33 feet wide truck friendly road from Yarkand at China border to Gorikot in Astor via Shagarthang.