By Bilal Kanjal
ISLAMABAD: Many years have passed, but the dwellers of Layyah and Taunsa still await the construction work to be started on the much-needed bridge over the Indus River, Pakistan Today observed.
The Layyah-Taunsa bridge will not just provide a vital link to the two major cities of Layyah and Taunsa, it will also enable development of one of the most backward areas of Pakistan- South Punjab.
The project was initially announced 30 years ago in 1988, when Nawaz Sharif was the chief minister of Punjab. However, Nawaz Sharif paid another visit to Layyah as the premier on April 26, 2013, just 15 days prior to elections. The announcement for the construction of the bridge was made yet again.
In May 2017, Nawaz Sharif visited Layyah yet again and eventually, the foundation of the project was laid, however without the filing system being complete.
Due to the absence of a proper river crossing between the two cities, the only two links available on River Indus are at DI Khan-Darya bridge located some 88 km upstream of the project’s proposed site and at Taunsa Barrage located 52km downstream from the proposed site.
Due to the absence of a bridge linkage between Layyah and Taunsa, the residents of the both cities face immense difficulties. The city dwellers must travel 100 km by road from Layyah to Taunsa and vice versa.
Similarly, a ferry service is available to transport the residents from either side to cross the Indus River to other side. The ferry service takes almost one hour and twenty five minutes to reach Taunsa from Layyah and vice versa.
According to NHA documents available with Pakistan Today, the project site is located between Layyah, on the east bank of Indus River, and Taunsa, the west bank of the river.
The main objective of the project focuses on the development of the area in addition to providing a direct linkage between the two cities. This will greatly reduce the distance between the two cities and bring it down to 50 km from 120 km.
In addition, the traffic flow would be facilitated from east to west by providing a link between N-55 (North-South Corridor) and Motorway M-4 (Part of Peshawar Karachi Motorway).
The west bank of River Indus (Taunsa) would be connected to the provincial road network on the east side of the Indus. This will contribute positively towards the development of the area particularly the western side of the Indus River.
According to further detail provided in the NHA documents, the main components of the project comprise of the construction of a major bridge on Indus River measuring 1.5km in length, a toll plaza, approach route to bridge from either side and river training works. The construction cost of the project is estimated to be Rs 7 million.
According to high ranked officials of National Highway Authority (NHA), design and other preparations for the project’s initiation are complete. The project now awaits the approval from the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms.
According to sources in the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms, the project has been facing delays due to technical reasons such as the proposal submitted by NHA being incomplete. However, now that the technical glitches have been eliminated, the project is likely to get a go-ahead from the ministry shortly. Thereafter, the project will begin.
Upon contact, Syed Saqlain Shah Bukhari, PML-N MNA stated that the project is ready and the tendering process will commence within a few days. Thereafter, the project will be contracted in accordance with the laid out rules so that the construction work can begin on the Indus River.