Gilgit-Baltistan:Three years on, unending KKH reconstruction leaves commuters fuming

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Gilgit (ET): Instead of making travel easier, three years after upgradation work on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) started, the journey remains no less of a nightmare for more than 60,000 people living in Jaglot valley.

The 55-kilometre patch connecting Jaglot with Gilgit is rough, bumpy and unmettled, stretching the once 50-minute-long drive from Jaglot to Gilgit to nearly three hours.

Those commuting daily have to put up with additional health issues caused by the amount of dust here.

For people in Jaglot, which is the biggest town near Darote, Damote and Chakarkote, KKH is the only land route linking them to the state
capital, Gilgit.

“For us, the upgradation exercise has been a pathetic experience,” Muhammad Aslam, a resident of Jaglot told The Express Tribune. “Aside from the money spent, it has consumed our energy and affected our health.”

Aslam runs a business in Gilgit and has to commute daily between the two valleys. The prolonged travel has caused increased fares for commuters, besides health issues associated with the dust that rises every time a vehicles drives past, he said, adding that the situation was much better before work on the KKH began.

Shamshad Khan, a government employee in Gilgit, said that the slow work on the KKH coupled with health issues, forced him to hire a small house in Gilgit.

“The journey has become strenuous and I can’t afford to commute between Gilgit and Jaglot twice a day, so now I live in a rented house,” he said.

Transporters have the same issues as their passengers.“If I had enough money, I would have abandoned this route by now. It is really difficult as you don’t know when you will come upon a landslide or a boulder will hit you,” said Niyat Khan, a driver whose doctor has asked him to avoid dust as well.

Khan added that drivers had to increase fares as the journey now takes more time due to the dilapidated patch of road.

Expansion and upgradation work on the KKH from Chilas to Khunjerab was launched three years ago under the supervision of Chinese engineers.

However, deteriorating law and order in Gilgit-Baltistan, natural calamities such as the Attabad landslide, and recurring floods have delayed the completion of the project.

“The Attabad disaster and the sectarian crisis definitely delayed work,” said Abdullah Jan, a senior National Highway Authority official.

He said that following the Kohistan bus massacre, the Chinese stopped work on the highway which has only recently resumed. “Disasters and the law and order situation have delayed the project by one full year,” he said.

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