Swat Expressway to prove as gateway for tourism promotion in Pakistan, inauguration on May 25

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: Expressways play a pivotal role in economic and tourism development of a country as it provides an easy access to isolated and less visited destinations of tourism, heritage and archeological sites to generate substantial revenue for the national kitty.

Like most of developing countries, tourism industry is also underperforming since long in Pakistan despite its enormous potential primarily due to poor transportation system and lack of roads connectivity to interlink tourists’ destinations through enhanced motorways network.

To take full advantage of the rich tourism potential of Khyber Pakthunkhwa including seven districts of Malakand Division, the former PTI Government had taken a principal decision to construct state-of-the-art 81 kilometers long Swat expressway to explore the hidden treasures of Swat, Chitral, Dir Upper, Dir Lower, Kohistan, Shangla, Buner, Mohmand and Bajaur districts before the world.

Swat expressway commences from Karnal Sher interchange in Swabi District on Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway and conclude at Chakdara Dir Lower district after passing through 21 bridges and 1300 meters twin tunnels on National Highway N-45.

The then Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had performed the ground-breaking of four-lane 120kilometers high speed fenced Swat Expressway on August 25, 2016 to provide an extra and fast track communication facilities to thousands of travelers visiting this part of the country on daily basis.

The long awaited project passed through difficult phases of tunneling, construction and land leveling and finally its 51 kilometers Karnal Sher Khan Swabi interchange up to Katlang Mardan was opened for vehicular traffic on May 21, 2018.

Engr Barkatullah Khan, Project Director, Swat Expressway told APP on Sunday that work on the second phase from Katlang Mardan to Chakdara Lower Dir district has entered into last stage of completion and as per the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the entire expressway will be opened for vehicular traffic on May 25, 2019.

“The Prime Minister has given clear instructions for its opening on May 25 to facilitate people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Malakand divisions besides tourists and we are working against the time to meet the said deadline,’ he said. The construction work on 1.2 kilometers twin tunnels besides 21 bridges and 25 acres service area on each side of the expressway were completed.“Swat expressway is presently four lanes that would be later converted into six lane motorway,” Engr Barkatullah Khan said, adding KP Govt has planned to extend this project up to Mingora Swat for which feasibility studies has been completed and PCI was submitted to the Federal Government with a request of Rs10 billion for payment of land cost to construct 37 kilometers Chakdara-Mingora section in later stage.

“Total cost of Swat expressway is currently Rs 34.165billion including an allocation of Rs 6.865 billion for purchase of land and resettlement of people,” he said adding Rs 11.5billion has been injected by KP Govt while the remaining were paid by donor agency,” the PD informed.

He said extra care was adopted in disbursement of payment among land owners and this process was transparently done through Deputy Commissioners, revenue and concerned Govt officials. It is being constructed under Public Private Partnership (PPP) with help of Frontier Works Organization (FWO) that would get its invested money back through toll taxes in 25 years after its completion.

Being declared environmental safe project, he said, traffic movement on expressway would be monitored through an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) through different modes of cameras and prompt help would be provided to commuters in case of road mishaps.

The project will give a direct access to all seven districts of Malakand division to down districts of KP, reduce problems of traffic congestion and vehicle operating costs (VDCs), time, promote agriculture economy and social harmony.

The project will help connect Chitral through Lowari Tunnel and onward linking it with Afghanistan, Tajkistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs) route that will make Pakistan a hub of business, trade and tourism. The KP Govt has also planned to construct CPEC City at Nowshera near Swat expressway that would be proved as game-changer for the province.

Sajjad Hameed, Tourism Corporation KP (TCKP) General Manager told APP that all tourists’ sites connected by Swat expressway will be manned by tourism police that will formally take over at Malakand and Hazara divisions soon after Eidul Fitre.

With launching of new online visa policy, he said, hundreds of thousands of tourists are expected this year in Khyber Pakthunkhwa mostly to Malakand and Hazara divisions as last year over three million tourists had arrived the province.

The TCKP GM said special counters would be setup at Bacha Khan International and other airports in KP to facilitate domestic and foreign tourists in upcoming summer season.

“We have identified 20 new tourists sites mostly in Hazara and Malakand divisions that would be linked with Swat expressway and Hazara motorway to reduce load on existing tourists sites at Kalam, Malam Jabba, Behrain in Swat, Nathia Gali and Thandyani in Abbottabad districts,’ he said.

TCKP GM said KP government has been requested to handover 157 rest houses, which were still in the administrative control of other departments to provide inexpensive accommodation facilities to tourists.