Reconstruction of the Karakoram Highway

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Pakistan N-35.svg

National Highway N–35
Karakoram Highway Reconstruction
Highlighted in red is the route of National Highway 35, which is to be completely rebuilt and upgraded under the CPEC agreement. Highlighted in blue is the 175 km (109 mi) road between Gilgit and Skardu which is to be upgraded to a four-lane highway.
Route information
Length 806 km (501 mi)
Major junctions
North end China–Pakistan border
South end Hasan Abdal, Punjab
Highway system
Roads in Pakistan

As part of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, reconstruction and upgrade works are underway on the 887-kilometre-long (551 mi) National Highway 35 (N-35), which forms the Pakistani portion of the Karakoram Highway (KKH).

Route description[edit]

The KKH spans the 806-kilometre-long (501 mi)[1] distance between the China–Pakistan border and the town of Hasan Abdal. At Burhan Interchange near Hasan Abdal, the existing M1 motorway will intersect the N-35 at the Shah Maqsood Interchange. From there, access onwards to Islamabad and Lahore continues as part of the existing M1 and M2 motorways. Hasan Abdal will also be at intersection of the Eastern Alignment, and Western Alignment.

The planned upgrades to the 470-kilometre-long (290 mi) section between Hasan Abdal and Raikot of the Karakoram Highway over the next many years is officially referred to in Pakistan as the Karakoram Highway Phase 2 project.

Hasan Abdal and Havelian[edit]

This is currently a 54 kilometres (34 mi) of 2 lane roadway referred to as the N-35. Work is underway to construct a new 59-kilometre-long (37 mi), six-lane controlled-access highway between Hasan Abdal and Havelian which upon completion will be officially referred to as the E-35 expressway, or Hazara Motorway.[2]

Havelian to Shinkiari[edit]

North of Havelian, the next 61 kilometres (38 mi) of the 2 lane roadway will be upgraded to a four-lane dual carriageway between Havelian and Shinkiari.[3] Groundbreaking on this portion commenced in April 2016.[4]

Shinkiari to Thakot[edit]

The Shinkiari to Thakot 76 kilometres (47 mi) is a 2 lane roadway. This will be upgraded to a 2 lane highway construction of which commenced in April 2016 jointly with construction of the Havelian to Shinkiari four-lane dual carriageway.[5] Construction on both these sections is expected to be completed within 42 months at a cost of approximately $1.26 billion with 90% of funding to come from China's EXIM bank in the form of low interest rate concessional loans.[5][6][7]

Thakot to Raikot[edit]

The 279 kilometres (173 mi) of 2 lane roadway between Thakot and Raikot spans an area in which the government of Pakistan is currently either planning or actively constructing several hydropower projects, most notably the Diamer-Bhasha Dam and Dasu Dam. Sections of the N-35 around these projects will be completely rebuilt in tandem with dam construction[8] In the interim, this section of the N-35 is currently being improved from its current state until dam construction commences in full force at a later date. Improvement projects on this section are expected to be completed by January 2017 at a cost of approximately $72 million.[9][10]

China suspended funding for improvement of this portion of Karakorum Highway (KKH)[11] in December 2017, apparently due to allegations of corruption in the project.

Raikot to the Khunjerab Pass at Chinese border[edit]

The next 336 kilometres (209 mi) of 2 lane roadway connect Raikot to Khunjerab Pass. Reconstruction works on this section of roadway preceded the CPEC, and were initiated after severe damage to roadways in the area following the 2010 Pakistan floods. Most of this section of roadway was completed in September 2012 at a cost of $510 million,[12] and was severely dilapidated even prior to the 2010 flooding.[13] No additional upgrade in proposed for this section in the current reconstruction phase.

Khunjerab Pass[edit]

The Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved international border crossing in the world and the highest point on the Karakoram Highway. The long, relatively flat pass is often snow-covered during the winter season and as a consequence is generally closed for heavy vehicles from November 30 to May 1 and for all vehicles from December 30 to April 1. No additional upgrade in proposed for the Khunjerab pass section of KKH in the current reconstruction phase.

Landslide shelters on KKH[edit]

Many sites on the Karakoram Highway are prone to landslides specially during the monsoon and winter months. Landslide shelters have been constructed at many points to protect the highway but still the highway often gets closed for traffic for 2-3 days due to landslides triggered by rainfall or snowfall.

China-Pakistan Friendship Tunnels[edit]

In addition to flooding, a large earthquake rocked the region nearest to the China-Pakistan border in 2010, triggering massive landslides which dammed the Hunza River, and resulted in the formation of the Attabad Lake. Portions of the N-35 were submerged in the lake, forcing all vehicular traffic onto barges to traverse the new reservoir. Construction on a 24-kilometre (15 mi) series of bridges and tunnels to Attabad Lake began in 2012 and required 36 months for completion. The bypass consists of two large bridges, 78 culverts and five kilometres (3.1 mi) worth of tunnels that were inaugurated for public use on 14 September 2015 at a cost of $275 million.[14][15]

Gilgit to Skardu[edit]

The 175-kilometre (109 mi) road between Gilgit and Skardu will be upgraded to a four-lane road at a cost of $475 million to provide direct access to Skardu from the N-35.[16][17]

Cost and Financing[edit]

As part of CPEC, approximately $11 billion worth of infrastructure projects being developed by the Pakistani government will be financed by concessionary loans, with composite interest rates of 1.6%,[18] after Pakistan successfully lobbied the Chinese government to reduce interest rates from an initial 3%.[19] The concessional loans are subsidised by the government of China, and are to be dispersed by the Exim Bank of China and the China Development Bank. For comparison, loans for previous Pakistani infrastructure projects financed by the World Bank carried an interest rate between 5% and 8.5%,[20] while interest rates on market loans approach 12%.[21]

The China Development Bank will finance the $920 million towards the cost of reconstruction of the 487-kilometre (303 mi) portion of the Karakoram Highway between Hasan Abdal and Raikot.[22][23]

An addition $1.26 billion will be lent by the China Exim Bank for the construction of the Havelian to Thakot portion of this stretch of roadway,[5][6] to be dispersed as low-interest rate concessional loans.[24]

Construction works on the China-Pakistan Friendship Tunnels can be traced to 2013, when China began construction on a 24-kilometre (15 mi) bypass of Attabad Lake with a combination of 5 km worth of tunnels, two large bridges, and 78 small bridges to bypass the lake which had been formed after a 2010 earthquake triggered massive landslides. The resulting landslides cut off both the Indus River and Karakoram Highway resulting in the formation of the reservoir. Prior to completion of the bypass, all vehicular traffic had to be loaded onto barges to traverse the new reservoir. Construction of the tunnels began in 2012 and required 36 months for completion. The 24 km long series of bridges and tunnels was inaugurated on 15 September 2015 at a cost of $275 million and was hailed as a major accomplishment.[25][26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://downloads.nha.gov.pk/images/stories/services/routedistance/rd4.jpg
  2. ^ Senate Secretariat (23 October 2014). "Questions for Oral Answers and Their Replies" (PDF). Question 126: Senate of Pakistan. Retrieved 11 February 2016. From Havelian to Shah Maqsood Interchange, the proposed alignment of CPEC will overlap with alignment of E-35. This section will be 15 Km long and undertaken with ADB assistance as 6-Lane Motorway... Shah Maqsood Interchange – Islamabad section will be 50 km long and constructed along a new alignment as 6-Lane Motorway. 
  3. ^ Senate Secretariat (23 October 2014). "Questions for Oral Answers and Their Replies" (PDF). Question 126: Senate of Pakistan. Retrieved 11 February 2016. Shinkiari – Mansehra – Abbottabad section will be 50 Km long and constructed as 4- Lane Expressway... Abbottabad – Havelian section will be 11 km in length and constructed as 4-Lane Motorway with 6-Lane structures. | Portion between Abbottabad and Havelian is now to be a dual carriageway rather than motorway. 
  4. ^ Senate Secretariat (23 October 2014). "Questions for Oral Answers and Their Replies" (PDF). Question 126: Senate of Pakistan. Retrieved 11 February 2016. Raikot – Thakot section will be 280 Km in length and constructed as 2-Lane highway along a new alignment... Thakot – Shinkiari section will be 74 km in length wherein existing 2-Lane KKH will be upgraded and improved. 
  5. ^ a b c "PM Sharif performs ground-breaking of Havelian-Thakot Motorway". The News Pakstan. 28 April 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2016. 
  6. ^ a b 133 billion Pakistan rupees equivalent to US$1.26 billion as of May 2016
  7. ^ "CPEC eastern alignment: Pakistan, China ink agreements worth $4.2b". Tribune. Pakistan. 4 May 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2016. 
  8. ^ Senate Secretariat (23 October 2014). "Questions for Oral Answers and Their Replies" (PDF). Question 126: Senate of Pakistan. Retrieved 11 February 2016. Raikot – Thakot section (2-Lane) 255.8 km; Feasibility Study Completed by Chinese Side. However the Alignment falls under the Four Dams planned by WAPDA, namely; Bhasha, Dasu, Pattan and Thakot. The Road construction is planned to commensurate with Dam Construction activities. In the meanwhile the existing KKH is being improved in its present condition. 
  9. ^ "NHA launches projects to improve KKH's condition". The News. 22 August 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  10. ^ 7.5 billion PKR = 71.66 million USD as of 10 February 2016
  11. ^ "CPEC funding in Trouble. China plays hardball". Theindependent.in. 5 December 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2017. 
  12. ^ "PM Launches KKH Projects Thanks China for Road Networks Upgradation Help". Pakistan Observer. 29 September 2012. Archived from the original on 15 February 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  13. ^ "China-aided highway changes life of Pakistanis". Xinhua News Agency. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  14. ^ "PM Nawaz inaugurates Pak-China Friendship Tunnels over Attabad Lake". Dawn. 14 September 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  15. ^ "PM inaugurates tunnels over Attabad Lake in G-B". The Express Tribune. 14 September 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  16. ^ "PM Announces Construction of Skardu-Gilgit Road". Samaa TV. 24 November 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2015. 
  17. ^ note: 50 billion Pakistani Rupees = US$475 million as of December 2015
  18. ^ Butt, Naveed (3 September 2015). "Economic Corridor: China to Extend Assistance at 1.6 Percent Interest Rate". Business Recorder. Retrieved 16 December 2015. 
  19. ^ Haider, Mehtab (23 September 2015). "China converts $230m loan for Gwadar airport into grant". Geo TV News. Retrieved 16 December 2015. 
  20. ^ https://finances.worldbank.org/Loan-and-Credit-Administration/IBRD-Statement-of-Loans-Latest-Available-Snapshot/sfv5-tf7p?
  21. ^ http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/FR.INR.LEND
  22. ^ Rana, Shahbaz (16 April 2015). "Eastern corridor route: Pakistan, China to sign infrastructure financing deals". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 6 December 2015. 
  23. ^ Kiani, Khaleeq (13 August 2015). "Chinese firms to get contracts for two CPEC projects". Dawn News. Retrieved 16 December 2015. 
  24. ^ "CPEC eastern alignment: Pakistan, China ink agreements worth $4.2b". Tribune. Pakistan. 4 May 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2016. 
  25. ^ http://www.dawn.com/news/1206911
  26. ^ http://tribune.com.pk/story/956452/pm-inaugurates-tunnel-over-attabad-lake-in-g-b/