The first phase of ‘improvement’ of N-70 (national highway) has commenced with the funding of Japan.
Starting from Rakhi Gaaj-Khar-Bewata, the project aims to make the hilly portion of the road wide and safe for Gwadar-bound cargo traffic with the installation of eight steel bridges.
Mr Saulat Bhatti, the project director, told that the road from Multan to Qila Saifullah was being improved and widened to link it up with the road network under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Besides, he said, work on dual-carriageway from Multan to Dera Ghazi Khan would soon commence on a BOT (build-operate-transfer) basis and the process of mutation of land was under process.
“The first phase of East-West improvement of N-70 from Rakhi Gaaj-Khar-Bewata has taken off with the allocation of Rs14 billion. The project will be executed in three phases at a cost of Rs23 billion.”
Mr Bhatti said the hilly portion of N-70, which was constructed in the late 19th century by the British engineers, had seven difficult turns to negotiate to climb up the high mountain of Girdo to reach For Munro or Bewata. “These turns are main hurdle for Gwadar-bound heavy cargo traffic and there is a plan to make travel easier by using Japanese technology,” he said.
He said almost 33-kilometre long tough hilly portion of N-70 would be widened and improved with installation of eight steel bridges having a total length of 1.5 kilometre.
The Japanese engineering company which had made Kohat tunnel was working on this project too, he said, adding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would inaugurate the work on first phase soon.
District Police Officer Atta Muhammad told that 180 personnel of the Special Protection Unit, district and Elite police had been deployed at the site for the N-70 project. The Border Military Police (BMP) would ensure protection of the engineers and labourers undertaking the project, he added.
The hilly portion of Dera-Taftan Road from Rakhi Gaaj to high mountain of Girdo was constructed in the late 19th century by the British rulers as part of “strategic forward policy” in the subcontinent.
Quoting his great grandfather, a labourer working on the (current) project told this correspondent that it was one of the most difficult terrains to work on but after completion, it brought about positive changes in the lives of tribal people.