RAWALPINDI: The Rawalpindi Nullah Leh Expressway and Flood Channel project in Rawalpindi has been stalled for the past 15 years despite approvals from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC).
The ECNEC approved the project during the previous administration with four conditions, including that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report be obtained, the Private Public Partnership Authority (PPPA)’s approval be sought, an investor is to be found, and the Punjab government pay Rs24 billion for land acquisition.
However, these conditions have proven difficult to fulfill, with finding an investor being the most challenging aspect.
The Leh Expressway and Flood Channel are crucial for Rawalpindi to avoid the negative impacts of Nullah Leh, including monsoon floods and severe pollution.
In 2001, 72 people lost their lives and incurred a financial loss of Rs100 billion due to a flood in Nullah Leh, leading to the decision for a new traffic plan and a secure channel to transport open sewage.
The project was launched in 2006-7 but was scrapped by the subsequent government in 2008.
Despite multiple announcements from the PTI-led government to lay the foundation stone, no progress was made.
The cost of the project has increased from Rs17 billion in 2006-7 to over Rs81 billion today.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that Nullah Leh is the main cause of pollution in Rawalpindi, both underground and in the air.
Health experts warn of the dangers of pollution to human health, and environmental experts advocate for a covered channel to transfer sewage outside the city.
Additionally, Chairman Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA), Tariq Mahmood Murtaza, believes the Leh Expressway project will not only provide an alternative traffic route but also increase business activities through the establishment of a commercial area.
It is important to mention that the transfer of open sewage to a sewage treatment plant will provide farmers with fertilizer and clean water for irrigation.