By Yang Ziman
Karakoram Highway project to transform Pakistan and generate handsome returns onChinese investment
The improvement of the Karakoram Highway of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has greatly boosted transportation of farm produce and tourism in the north of Pakistan, said top executives of China Communications Construction Company Ltd or CCCC that has aided the renovation.
The highway, which used to be open for only four months every year, runs through the year now.
“The improved road has enhanced the economic ties between China and Pakistan. It is a road leading to abundant wealth and prosperity for the Pakistani people,” said Sun Ziyu, vice-president of CCCC, a major Chinese State-owned enterprise principally engaged in the design and construction of transportation infrastructure.
“A smooth road plays an important role in China’s investment in agriculture, infrastructure and energy in Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a key hub along the Belt andRoad Initiative since it connects the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century MaritimeSilk Road,” said Sun.
The Karakoram Highway is the northern section of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a$46-billion project that connects Gwadar Port in southwestern Pakistan to China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region via a vast network of highways and railways.
The 1,224-kilometer Karakoram Highway is one of the highest paved international roads in the world. It connects Xinjiang of China and Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range at a height of 4,693 metres from the sea level.
The construction of the highway started in 1960s with China’s aid, and finished in 1979. It is the only land way to connect the north of Pakistan with the capital Islamabad and the southern coastal regions. It is also the only route on the land between China and Pakistan.
CCCC took over the project to improve Karakoram Highway in 2006. The section to be improved, which measures 335 kilometers, was completed and reopened for use inSeptember 2013.
“The highway goes through an extremely complicated and dangerous region nicknamed the disaster museum,” said Wang Jingchun, the overseas affairs manager of CCCC. “Unpredictable catastrophes such as avalanches, landslides, rockfalls, earthquakes, cave-in incidents occur from time to time. When the construction first started in 1960s, more than 700workers lost their lives in the process.”
In 2010, a large landslide hit the midsection of the Karakoram Highway, which formed a giant barrier lake of about 300 million cubic meters, cutting the road in half as it flooded 20kilo meters of the road.
“Since the dam is on the upper stream of the river, it will flood all the villages in the down stream section if it breaks,” said Chen Haipeng, deputy manager of China Road andBridge Corp, which was responsible for the landslide dam solution.
“We invited a lot of top Chinese engineers to the site to find a solution to the problem of the landslide dam,” said Pang Ming, manager of the improvement project. “Eventually we had to realign the route by constructing five tunnels with a total length of 7 kilo meters through the mountains, which have been named the ‘China-Pakistan Friendship Tunnels’.”
The improvement project has created more than 10,000 jobs for the Pakistani people, who have been trained in the process to serve as talents for future infrastructure construction in the region. It has linked more than 15 million people in the region with faster access to the outside world.
Despite the technical challenges, the Chinese constructors have also helped the villages along the highway in building roads and bridges, maintaining power plants, diverting river routes, and building schools and orphanages. They have actively participated in the rescue and reconstruction work in times of natural disasters.
“As the only ‘all weather’ strategic partner of China, Pakistan is China’s important gateway toSouth Asia, Central Asia and West Asia as well as the Islamic world,” said Li Xiguang, deputydirector of the Tsinghua School of Communication and Journalism.
SOURCE: China Daily