ISLAMABAD - The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Saturday approved the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Project with a total cost of Rs23.839 billion, subject to clearance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report by the competent authority.

The ECNEC meeting, which was chaired by Finance Senator Ishaq Dar at Prime Minister Secretariat, discussed one point agenda, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Project (Islamabad portion, 13.09km). Sources informed that ECNEC did not take up the Dasu hydropower project, costing Rs 735 billion, which might be discussed in next meeting. The ECNEC, highest authority for approving of development activities reflective of long-term national policies and objectives, has approved Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Project. The ECNEC has attached a condition of getting clearance of EIA report by the competent authority after facing much criticism from different circles that project would have negative impact on natural beauty and environment of the capital. Both the federal and Punjab governments have successfully obtained mandatory permission from different forums without carrying out an environmental impact assessment or feasibility study of the proposed Rs23.839 billion project.

Therefore, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani took notice on an application of Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed regarding environmental impact of proposed metro bus service in Rawalpindi-Islamabad. Taking notice of the potential environmental threat, the CJP has sought detailed reports from the Capital Development Authority chairman, Rawalpindi commissioner, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Service project director on March 18 as to whether it is posing any threat to the master plan and its green belts.

“The federal and Punjab governments will share the total cost of project. Federal government will contribute Rs.13.419 billion whereas the Punjab government will chip in Rs.10.419 billion” said an official statement issued by the Finance Ministry. The Metro Bus System will be world-class facility being provided to the residents of twin cities, as per international standard and as per vision of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Construction of long awaited Peshawar Mor Interchange under this project will go along way in redressal of congestion problem at this inter section, which will provide a big relief to the residents and help in smooth flow of traffic during peak hours.

MBS project will start from IJ Principal Road at Faizabad where Rawalpindi portion terminates, and will traverse through IJ Principal Road, 9th Avenue, Jinnah Avenue and finally terminates at Pakistan Secretariat, Islamabad. The Islamabad portion that is 13.9km shall include Peshawar Mor Interchange as per CDA design and includes provision of 14 bus stations with allied facilities.

The project envisages construction of 13.9km long dedicated signal free corridor of 9.60 to 10.10 meters width at normal section and from 19.00 to 21.10 meters width at Metro Bus System (MBS) stations and tranches in Islamabad Territory. The proposed corridor will be capable of accommodating articulated buses running simultaneously in both directions.

Earlier, addressing the meeting, Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar briefed the participants of the meeting on receiving $1.5 billion from a friendly country.

The meeting was participated by Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning and Development, Anusha Rehman, Minister of State for Information Technology, federal secretaries and senior officials from central and provincial governments.

APP adds: Dar said donation of $1.5 billion from friendly countries was a gift for the people of Pakistan. He said the friendly countries had full confidence in Pakistan and the government and donated $1.5 billion unconditionally for Pakistan Development Fund (PDF).

Clarifying the rumours regarding the status of the donation, Ishaq Dar said it was neither loan nor given in return for any services. The amount should be accepted with thanks and not be made controversial, he added. He said the amount would be spent on different development projects in various sectors, including energy, infrastructure, railways, communication and transportation.