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Plight of the National Highway

Published on 26th Dec, Edition 52, 2016

 

The 25 kilometer National Highway, starting from Karachi Airport and linking the main industrial hub of Karachi, is in a state of disrepair. It has been in this deplorable condition for a year now, reflecting the criminal negligence of the authorities. The government of Sindh seems least bothered about the prevalent deteriorating business atmosphere in the city, causing serious damage to the more than 60% contribution made by the city to the national economy in terms of revenue.

Being the main artery connecting the industrial zone, the National Highway provides a wide range of job opportunities to thousands of residents. Not only that, Landhi, Bin Qasim and Korangi being connected to this highway have around 500 industries covering manufacturing sectors like steel, light engineering, power generation, etc. Restricting the road for these money-making industries is hampering the overall growth of the business sector and badly affecting the already scarce employment opportunities.

The present depleted condition of the road is the outcome of the cumulative negligence and irresponsibility shown by the Sindh government and NHA (National Highway Authority). The miserable condition of the National Highway is not due to a dearth of financial resources. Rather, ample funds have been earmarked in the budget of 2016 for construction and upkeep of roads and transport links.
Under the ADP (Annual Development Program), the Sindh government has already allocated Rs22.4 billion for roads and highways along with Rs3.7 billion added funds under Maintenance and Repair.

In addition, the former Sindh Finance Minister, and now Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, stated while presenting the Sindh Budget 2016 in the Provincial Assembly that Rs10 billion had been allocated for the revamping of Karachi out of which Rs3.4 billion was for construction and maintenance of roads and infrastructure. The NHA too was given a hefty amount of Rs190 billion in the 2016-17 budget. Yet no tangible measure has been employed by both authorities to root out the needlessly protracted problem of the poor condition of the National Highway.

 

Sindh and Punjab offer a peculiar contrast. The Punjab government is feverishly striving to create a business-friendly environment by earmarking Rs388 billion for the development sector, out of which Rs79 billion is solely for keeping roads and bridges in good state. This adds up to 4.6% funds investment from the Punjab government on road links.

Sindh has assigned Rs22.4 billion for the road sector. A lack of utilization of these resources in Sindh, in comparison to the Punjab, delineates the government’s incompetency which is eventually widening the gap in terms of infrastructure development.

Even the slightest downpour, as we have witnessed in the recent past, can create a lake in the vicinity due to the absence of a proper drainage system. Travelling on this road is no more than a bumpy ride. Traffic snarls have become a routine matter with a high chance of getting mugged while commuting. No serious consideration seems to have been made by the concerned authorities towards the repair and maintenance of this important route.

Effective administration from the provincial government is needed to solve the problem and it must be done at the earliest since this could seriously harm the national economy if it continues to be ignored.

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