Early closure of Lowari Tunnel criticised

By Zar Alam Khan 


ISLAMABAD, April 13, 2010: The National Highway Authority (NHA) has closed the Lowari Tunnel and diverted the traffic between Chitral and other parts of the country to the Lowari Pass route which still has not been cleared of snow and avalanches.

Residents of Chitral told Dawn on Sunday that passengers, particularly women and children, were facing innumerable hardship while trying to cross the 10,500-foot-high treacherous pass.

They said the NHA was least concerned about their ordeal and had closed the tunnel in complete disregard to their sufferings.

The government had opened the under-construction tunnel for two hours daily about four months back to lessen the communication problems of the district which remains cut-off from rest of the country due to the closure of the only land route via the Lowari Pass in winter.

However, the residents of Chitral criticised the NHA for closing the tunnel before the pass was cleared of snow. They said normally the Lowari Pass route opens for traffic in May but the NHA staff deputed at both portals of the tunnel in Chitral and Upper Dir closed the passageway on April 7 without making any announcement.

One of the passengers after reaching here from Chitral said vehicles trying to cross the pass remained stuck for hours on the way. He said the passengers had to get down after every few hundred metres to literally lift the vehicles out of snow and push them on.

“Even four-wheel drive vehicles were getting stuck on the snow and mud-fed route. One coaster almost overturned due to a hidden hole on the snow-covered road leaving women and children crying,” he added.

The residents called upon the federal government to direct the NHA to reopen the tunnel till the snow on the pass was removed for safety of the passengers.

The NHA spokesman could not be contacted for comments.–Dawn