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Construction of Kohat tunnel

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From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
Feb 21 - 27, 2000

Rocks of Neelab Ghasha Mountain, abuot 5 kilometers North of this picturesque land-locked city of Kohat in the North Western Frontier Province, were blasted on Saturday morning with a gentle push of a button connected with 6.7 kg detonating material, to pave way for construction of 1.885 KM Kohat Tunnel, an integral part of the 1211 km strategic Indus Highway, connecting country's two key trade centres, Peshawar and Karachi.

The rock blasting ceremony was jointly performed by the Chief guest Syed Imtiaz Hussain Gilani, Information and Education Minister of N.W.F.P., Maj Gen Waqarul Haq Khan Khalid, Chairman National Highway Authority, His Excellency Toshiyuki Lwado, Deputy Head of the Japan Embassy and Katsumi Uchida, Chief Repres entative of Japan Bank of International Cooperation, the sole financier of the tunnel project.

The ceremony was attended by high-ranking officials of the N.W.F.P. administration, staff and engineers of the tunnel project, prominent Maliks of the Afridi and Khattak tribes and team of Islamabad-based journalists representing local and foreign agencies and newspapers.

Malik Inayatullah Khan Afridi presented traditional turbans (quallahs) to the inaugurating team of the rock blasting ceremony.

The blasting ceremony was preceded by an impressive briefing by Engineer Yoshio Kobay Ashi, Project Manager of the Pacific Consultants International, the consultant firm of the tunnel project.

He explained that the tunnel situated in the mountains of Kohat Pass, will be dug and built through mainly the lime stone rocks as old as the Jurassic period. The tunnel was designed after a proper geological and seismic survey of the area. The project consists of 28 km of two lane access road out of which 20.4 km fall on the southern side (Kohat side) and the rest on the Northern end of the tunnel, he said adding that the itself will be concrete lined equipped with latest tunnel facilities like ventilation through jet fan system, lighting facilities, safety system, main power supply supported by standby generator power and control plus operation system. Access roads also include construction of seven bridges and four under passes. The largest bridge shall be constructed over Toi River, South of Kohat town, he added.

He said the tunnel will not only shorten the distance (25 km) and time (about one hour) in travel between Peshawar and Kohat, but will also shorten distances between Pakistan and Japan because of further closer ties between the two countries.

The Kohat Tunnel project sponsored by the Federal Ministry of National Highway Authority will cost Rs. 6626 million, all loaned by the Japan Bank of International Cooperation on account of the overseas Economic Cooperation Fund of Japan. The loan is payable in 30 years with a 10 years grace period on a 2.30 mark up rate. The project will be completed by July 2003. It may also be mentioned that with the completion of Indus Highway, distance between Peshawar and Karachi will be shortened by some 600 kilometers.

Speaking on the occasion, Maj Gen Waqarul Haq Khan Khalid, Chairman NHA, said construction of the Kohat Tunnel, which is an integral part of the Indus Highway, will not only pave for a new era of development in the agricultural and industrial fields, but also open new vistas for development of trade and economy in the region as it essentially connects Pakistan with Afghanistan and all the Central Asian States.

Syed Imtiaz Hussain Gilani, NWFP Education and Information Minister, who represented the governor Lt. Gen Muhammad Shafiq, as the latter could not preside over the rock blasting ceremony due to some preoccupation, in his presidential address said the construction of Kohat Tunnel will have direct bearing on the socio-economic uplift of all areas falling on either side of the Indus Super Highway. He urged upon the Federal Communications Ministry to launch more such projects to help develop economy in all parts of the country.

The Japan Bank for International cooperation (JBIC) has extended all the loans for the Kohat tunnel project. The Ministry of communications is the sponsoring agency while National Highway Authority (NHA) is the executing agency.

Pacific consultant International of Japan and Moushchel of United Kingdom have been approved as consultants for the design reviewing and construction supervision work of the project. Taissei of Japan is the contractor of the project.