DEVELOPING NATIONAL LOGISTICS ON TOP PRIORITY
The latest govt decision is to build a National Trade Corridor connecting Karachi and Peshawar by upgrading the existing GT Road into six-lane world-class expressway
From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Feb 13 - 19, 2006
IMPROVEMENT IN LOGISTICS
Fully cognizant of the fact that an underdeveloped logistic base has also played a contributory role in circumscribing economic growth in the country, the present government is giving top priority to develop national logistics by improving the standard of existing facilities and expanding the roads and communication network.
The latest decision of the government in this regard is to build a National Trade Corridor connecting Karachi and Peshawar by upgrading the existing Grand Trunk (GT) Road into six-lane world-class expressway on top priority basis to be funded by the World Bank. The project costing over five billion dollars would be completed in three years. The proposed corridor will cut down the transit time for containers and trucks to 36 hours for reaching Peshawar from Karachi.
The North-South expressway to be completed on top priority basis envisages converting National Highway (N-5) into high class inter-city urban highway with fencing, flyovers, underpasses, pedestrian crossings and service roads; improvement of Indus Highway (N-55) & its integration into the corridor.
While giving details of the multi billion-dollar project, Dr. Salman Shah, Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, told newsmen that the proposed trade corridor will provide an efficient mode of transportation for goods and services which would in turn fuel faster economic growth.
Chairman National Highway Authority (NHA), at a press conference, unveiled another similar project Kalat-Quetta-Chaman Highway, including cross border facility at Chaman linking it with Afghanistan.
Giving details of the project, the NHA chief said the project entails improvement of about 240 kms National Highway (N-25) from Kalat to Quetta and up to Chaman, the town bordering Afghanistan. This four lane section of the National Highway is being improved to international standards that will allow efficient communication between Afghanistan, Central Asian States and Pakistan, particularly facilitating trade between these regions with a connection to Gawadar and Karachi. The scope of work includes construction of a modern cross border facility at Chaman that would include customs and other facilities. The project is partly funded by the Asian Development Bank and it forms an integral part of a wider road network being developed to connect the above-mentioned region. The construction period for the civil work is 33 months and it will provide opportunities for local employment in Balochistan, besides promoting technology transfer and introducing modern contract administration practices in construction.
The civil works for the project will be executed through four contracts valued at Rs. 5,644 million, whereas three contracts are now being signed. The consultant led by an Australian company M/s SMEC has already been mobilized to carry out design review and construction supervision of civil works contracts. The civil contracts are being awarded following international competitive bidding (ICB) procedures.
The civil works for the road involve widening, improvement in road geometry and drainage, environmental, social and road safety considerations, provision of road-related facilities in urban areas, pavement strengthening and provision of ROW with emphasis to design has already been completed.
About development of cross border facility at Chaman, he said that Pakistan lacks efficient and competitive transit arrangement, which is essentially required to cater to increasing trade flows expected to emanate to/from Afghanistan/Central Asian States in near future. One of the principal gateways between the two countries is the Chaman border crossing linked with road and rail. The objectives of developing cross border facility at Chaman border is to ensure that the bottlenecks in the flow of trade would be eliminated and arrangements at the border crossing would be streamlined by providing least cumbersome, client-friendly and transparent processes for the transit traffic between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The planned Karachi-Peshawer trade corridor and Quetta-Chaman highway project assume special importance when viewed against the backdrop of quota free WTO regime, in force since January 2005. A second crucial prong is the construction of a deep-sea port at Gwadar, which is designed to provide an alternative maritime outlet to the Central Asian States and China. In fact, we have long coveted the vast energy resources of the Central Asian States, though the overzealous policy thrust of some of our planners has frustrated its realization. The contemplated Karachi-Peshawar trade corridor will substantially improve the freight and passenger traffic in this sector, cutting down the transit time to only 36 hours. The decline in railways, despite its staff strength of 1,00,000 and 11,000 km rail track, has shifted a part of the burden of passenger and freight transit to the road transport. The proposed trade corridor will also help address some of the existing deficiencies in the logistics network. While the construction of a national logistic corridor should be taken up on a priority basis, there is also a need for the government to put emphasis on upgradation and expansion of the existing road and rail infrastructure in equal measure. Though prohibitively expensive at present, the airfreight services can be brought within the reach of common man through effecting rational and realistic adjustments in the charges. The cut in time for freight transit from Karachi to Peshawar will undoubtedly help inject a new verve in this important sector of the economy. The government should also order comprehensive restructuring of the national transport policy to address the existing challenges.