Delays galore: Another day, another deadline for new airport

Govt sets June 2017 deadline for completion, funding woes suggest otherwise

Govt sets June 2017 deadline for completion, funding woes suggest otherwise

ISLAMABAD: Already five years behind schedule, completion of the new Islamabad airport has officially been delayed even further.

The new Islamabad airport has become the latest in the list of projects which, it appears, will not be completed anytime soon.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced that the airport would now be completed in June 2017.

Meanwhile, a source working on the site called the new completion date “laughable”, recalling a conversation he had with The Express Tribune in the summer of 2014, when he had said the airport would take at least five years to complete if everything is smooth sailing from here onwards. “It hasn’t been smooth sailing,” he added. Groundbreaking of the project was performed in April 2007. At the time it was announced that it would be completed within four years — or 2011.

During a visit to the construction site near Fateh Jang Road in March 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the authorities to complete construction work by March 31, 2015.

Since then, a number of new completion deadlines have come and gone, but the airport remains far from functional. Sources in the CAA and contractors working on the site told The Express Tribune that the new deadline would also be a “long shot”.

The contractors cited flaws in the runway, which he said had not been resolved in nine years.

A CAA source referred to the difficulty in resolving issues with access routes and utilities, while also referring to the fact that those found guilty of graft, incompetence, embezzlement, and illegal subcontracting in various inquiries have escaped punishment. “People want to be posted there to go on looting sprees”, he said.

The airport project was approved in 2003-04. Groundbreaking was performed in April 2007 and the original PC-1 of Rs36.86 billion was approved in March 2008. The revised PC-1 then pushed the cost to Rs81.17 billion. CAA sources said the final cost seems certain to go past Rs100 billion.

At least 17 different contractors are working on the airport, while the CAA had acquired 3,289 acres for Rs950 million for the project.

Recently, the Public Accounts Committee was told that 60 per cent of work had been completed and Rs51.23 billion in payments had been made. The PAC treated the numbers with caution, to say the least.

When asked about the new deadline, a CAA spokesperson said the June 2017 was the new deadline to make the project operational, adding that for the financial year 2016-17, the federal government allocated Rs6.2 billion under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for related construction of roads and dams.

He said Rs3 billion was marked for the construction of road, including the main link, the Thalian link and periphery road, and Rs2.3 billion for the construction of approach road networks, including acquisition of land and shifting of utilities from the area.

“The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) approved the Rama and Kasana dams on March 31, 2015. In the first phase, work on the construction of Rama Dam at a cost of Rs1.6 billion has been taken up,” he said, adding that around 10 per cent of work on that dam had been completed.

While, Rs900.8 million were set aside for the construction of two rainwater harvesting dams – Rama and Kasana dams.

Rama Dam was identified as the most feasible of three proposed rainwater reservoir sites surveyed in the vicinity of the airport recently. The site meets the requirement for supply of at least two million gallons per day to the new airport. A study carried out by the Punjab Small Dams Association favoured Rama due to technical advantages, negligible disturbance to the local population, and low operational costs and security risks.

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