A vaunted dry port and cargo handling project in the Haripur district failed to commence even after being approved by the responsible authorities about five years ago. Sources said the project continued to be delayed because Chinese and Pakistani consultants did not consider the Balder site suitable for the execution of the plans.
They said consultants recommended moving the project to Kotna Jibla station, about 11 kilometers from the capital Haripur. According to official documents, on 12 April 2017, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved the preliminary design of the modernization and rehabilitation of the main line (ML-1) and the establishment of a dry port near Boulder railway station. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is estimated to cost over Rs 10,641 crore excluding foreign aid. The Baldher Dryport project was due to be completed within eight and a half years. Pakistan Railways Advisory and Consultancy Services (PRACS) conducted a feasibility study in Q1 2018 proposing acquisition of 260 acres of land in the villages of Baldhair, Bagra No.2, Dobandi and Kholian.
However, land prices met resistance from owners. They dismissed the package, saying it was well below market price. Plans for a dry port and other infrastructure were underway, alleviating fears of landowners, when activity came to a sudden halt in February 2020 due to the departure of a Chinese engineer, according to sources. A Chinese engineer was involved in planning his ML-I, and the dry port did not return due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions in both countries. It has been recommended by the project implementer that the design of the inland port should be reviewed so that most of the land of Pakistan Railways can be used for this purpose. Sources said that Chinese and Pakistani consultants had visited the site several times and deemed Baldher train station unfeasible to establish a dry dock. They approved Kotnajibullah Station as a suitable site for the project.
However, it is not yet certain when the implementing unit will begin construction work. “The reason for moving the project to Cotna Jibla is that the largest amount of land required for it is located there as property of Pakistan Railways. said Mohammad Shafiq, Infrastructure Specialist in the Project Implementation Unit of .He told the writer that Pakistan Railways land was available in Cotona Jibra and that the new location would have little impact on the local community. However, he was unsure when work on the project would begin. He said authorities are concentrating on the first phase of ML-1, which requires upgrading existing rail facilities and is underway from the Sindh side.
In future the inland port project will be resumed for completion,” Shafiq said. He added that the dry dock will be completed within eight and a half years after work begins.