Contractor blocks Lowari tunnel due to paucity of funds

2 December 2013

Hundreds of people, including Japanese tourists, are stranded at 10,500ft high Lowari Top in Pakistan due to the blockade of Lowari Tunnel.

A group of 10 Japanese tourists has been stranded at Lowari Top since the tunnel was blocked by Korean construction company Sambo and National Highway Authority (NHA) in early November 2013. Officials cite lack of funds as the reason behind the closure.

Local elders of Chitral district demanded the provincial government to pay the amount to Sambo through NHA facilities so they would reopen the tunnel to facilitate the residents of Chitral. The entire district has been cut off from the rest of Pakistan, while the tourists are also stranded.

Local elders said due to the blockade, residents of the district are providing security to the tourists, whose visas will soon expire. They added despite pleading to the officials, the foreigners were not allowed to use the tunnel. They also said locals went with some of the tourists via 12,500ft Shandur Pass to enter Gilgit and then find a way to reach Islamabad.

They said if the government has decided not to open the tunnel, then they should provide an alternate route for the 0.6 million population of the district. Most Chitralis term the blockade of Lowari Tunnel a hand-in-glove situation of Sambo and NHA to extract funds from the government.