by Zulfiqar Ali Khan
HUNZA, August 26: The Chinese construction firms have started the widening and expansion work of the 335km Karakurum Highway (KKH) from Khunjerab to Raikot. The work has been initially started in Hunza section after establishing 4 camps at different locations from Khunjerab to Nasirabad. The main secretariat has been established at Gulmit, some 40 km north of Aliabad, Hunza. The $510 million worth highway is expected to be completed by 2011.
The construction of camps in Nagar and other parts of Gilgit is in process. Heavy construction machinery with about 300 Chinese labours and engineers from China has reached Hunza. The collapse of the main bridge on KKH has however created problems in moving heavy machineries to Gilgit.
The expansion of the KKH was inaugurated by President Pervez Musharraf last year. The project has been started late as the Chinese engineers left the country last year due to security reasons. Special police force has been developed to ensure security of Chinese workers.
According to official statistics, the project will improve the grades, construct snow galleries, improve 27 bridges, add 480m long tunnels, 18 open cut tunnels (1,975 m), besides constructing 1,050 culverts, 5 aqueducts and retaining walls.
The KKH, after expansion, is expected to serve as a trade corridor, not only with China, but also the Central Asian Republics will get shortest access to Arabian Sea.