Inadequate snow clearing on Lowari, a nightmare for travelers

CHITRAL: Inadequate and poor quality of snow clearing on the Lowari pass tunnel approach roads, happens at this time of the year every year, but this time the phenomenon has been duly highlighted, courtesy Shahzada Siraj Ulmulk? and the social media. Face book post of Siraj Ulmulk is being reproduced below.

“The road over the lowari pass is unique in that it has a tunnel but you cant get to it during heavy snowfall. As it happened on 6th and 7th Dec and as will happen whenever the snow falls this month and next month if the authorities fail to clear the snow.
On 6th Dec our buses were stuck on this precipitous road along with many other vehicles for over 11 hours and on 7th Dec for 14 hrs with no help in sight. On 7th Dec many vehicles coming from Chitral to Islamabad had to abandon their trip and return to Chitral.

The phone calls of female passengers still rings in my ears ” Sir, we are desperate please help us. Please do something. Please. Please. There is no one around here to help….” sob sob weep weep.
I tried to find out why this snow on the Chitral side of the Lowari Pass is not being cleared this year and I was shocked to find out that the only reason was that the Member North NHA had not returned from his two week leave so the annual tenders for snow clearing to contractors had not been floated. He has just returned from his leave but as I write the tenders have still not been floated. Gosh!! This work should have been done in Oct or Nov or latest before he left on leave. You dont have to wait for two snow falls to float such tenders. This has been criminal neglect on the part of NHA at the cost of immense sufferings to the travelling public of Chitral.
Hopefully these tenders will now be floated and the successful contractors on both side of the tunnel will start clearing the snow and ice.

On the Chitral side the successful contractor will be given the responsibility to clear the snow from the main tunnel upto Baradam
From north of Baradam it is the responsibility of Usmani and Associates who already have an on going contract to clear the snow but were reluctant to use their heavy machinery due to some payment tussle with NHA as well as a sucession struggle within the family after the owner died last year.

The part of the road from the North Portal of the Lowari Tunnel to where the metalled road ends near Baradam will be very tricky even if there is no snowfall and no body removes the ice which forms on top of it. The gradient from the small tunnel upto the Border Police checkpost near Baradam has been built in a faulty manner. The gradient of this metalled road is so steep that vehicles coming down it , even with chains to their tyres, can not prevent skidding while vehicles going up it cannot get traction on its icy surface even with chains attached.
It is very important that the successful contractor must have a dedidicated team on this portion of the road ready to help commuters 24/7 during Jan Feb and even March.

It is seriously suggested that all contractors working on both sides of the Lowari Tunnel MUST have their phone numbers prominently displayed on the road side through which commuters can ask for help when needed. Along with these phone numbers should be the phone numbers of NHA and the police and district administration of Dir and Chitral. Both these district heads must have an operation center dedicated to monitor the snow clearing and the complaint of commuters during these three critical months ahead. We have a huge advantage of adequate cell phone coverage all along the Lowari road and we should use it to make the life of the public safe on this tricky road. In fact the BHU ‘s and some of the rest places constructed by SRSP must also be used for relief work with an ambulance available when needed.

This winter the snowfall on the Lowari appears to be above average. Certainly more than what we experienced last year. Measure therefore will have to be taken even more seriously. Snow clearance and proper relief work must be put in place immediately. We are already too late! .. CN report,09 Jan 2020

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