China to reopen KKH, aims to restart trade


KARACHI – China is to clear the blocked Karakoram Highway (KKH) at Attabad and constructing new infrastructure in the affected area in a bid to resume and kick-start bilateral trade through the land route.
The closure of the highway is a major hindrance to trade with China. Islamabad has formally requested Beijing to invest in the effort to repair the route, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah told Pakistan Today on Wednesday.
The CM, who was visiting the head office of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), said that President Asif Ali Zardari in his recent visit to China had called on the Chinese prime minister to help Islamabad restore the KKH which has not only brought bilateral trade through the point to a grinding halt but rendered thousands of individuals stranded and brought economic life in the area to a standstill.
He revealed that the neighboring country will construct a long bridge which could clear the route for almost four kilometers, while the KKH in rest of affected area would be connected through a long tunnel. The feasibility reports of the projects are being finalised and after completion of the project; trade activities are expected to be restored.
It is worth mentioning here despite contrary claims on the part of the government; water stored in the artificial land could not be released through the spillway made by Frontier Works Organization as a vast area along the Hunza River was badly affected by the land slide.
Soon after the lake’s surface water started freezing in the current winter season, the communication system through boats was also disabled in the area. This has had an important effect on local economic activity since viable conveyance options are unavailable.
Alarmingly, food supply from Sost Dry Port at China Border to the people of Upper Hunza also stopped for three months after the closure of border which will apparently be reopened in March 2011. The affected people are placed in great danger in the current winter season and face a severe shortage of medicine, food and transportation while being denied economic opportunities.
Additionally, according an estimate, the decline in trade between China and Pakistan and the consequence for the tourism industry has caused an aggregate loss of Rs 3.0 billion in border trade activities and approximately Rs 2.0 billion for the tourism sector. The massive landslide blocked Hunza River completely.