Sambu seeks new terms for restarting tunnel work

ISLAMABAD, May 17: The South Korean construction company, Sambu, has said it suffered a loss of Rs3 billion in the Lowari Tunnel project and would never re-start the remaining work without a fresh agreement with the government of Pakistan.In cold storage An official of Sambu said they have already informed the National Highway Authority (NHA) about their decision to complete the tunnel on new terms and conditions. “We have incurred a loss of Rs3 billion as a result of the tunnel. We have prepared some new terms and conditions and handed them over to NHA officials. If they accept these conditions, we will resume construction work or else leave it incomplete,” the official told this reporter. He denied that there had been any agreement regarding restarting work before the new conditions were accepted by NHA. He, however, said negotiations with NHA were in progress and hoped something would come out of them. The Sambo official said they had not been provided Rs2 billion which the NHA had claimed to have received from the federal government for immediate restoration of work. “We have not received Rs2 billion from NHA. That is the reason we have not restarted work,” the official said. It is to recall that the NHA Chairman Syed Mohammad Ali Gardezi had told NHA executive board a number of times that Rs2 billion had been released by the ministry of finance for Lowari Tunnel. He also reportedly claimed to have reached an agreement with the Korean construction company for restarting work on the project. But one and a half years have passed when work on the tunnel was stopped and so far there are no chances of resuming the construction. NHA officials are tight-lipped over where the huge amount has been spent. Former MNA Abdul Akbar Chitrali has also reportedly accused the NHA of appropriating the Rs2 billion Lowari Tunnel funds for other purposes. On the other hand, a statement issued by NHA claimed to have reached an understanding with Sambu for restarting work on the tunnel. “Construction activity on Lowari Tunnel will be re-started next month. The project is to complete at a cost of Rs18 billion, and Rs2 billion per annum will be required for next five years. It is satisfying that M/s Sambu has expressed willingness to complete it at the earlier cost of Rs18 billion. Work on this gigantic project will be re-started next month,” the statement said. But the Korean construction company has belied the NHA’s claims. Issuing such statements off and on has been a routine for NHA. Work on Lowari Tunnel initiated in 2005. The Rs8 billion project was supposed to be completed in three years, in 2009. But lack of interest on the part of NHA and delay in release of funds has been delaying its completion. It has resulted in jacking up its cost by more than double. Completion deadline has also been by five years, till 2014. It may be further stretched if special attention is not paid, said an NHA official.—Bakhtawar Mian]]>

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