• Lowari Tunnel – Gateway to Chitral

Lowari Tunnel – Gateway to Chitral

Lowari tunnel is a mountain range Pass in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, rising 3,118 meters (10,230 feet) above sea level. One of the most well-known twisting roads on the planet is the N45, the route to the peak. It is reputed to be the grandfather of passes.

Introduction

The route that connects Dir and Chitral and goes through the tribals neighboring Afghanistan leads to the peak. Villagers refer to the roadway as Hell’s Road. The British constructed a route where even the most minor mistake could be disastrous. Snow blocks the Pass every year from early December to late May. The Pass, often referred to as Lawari or Lowari Top, is one of the lower passes used to access Chitral; the other passes range in elevation from 12,000 to 15,000 feet.

Although it appears to be surfaced on some maps, the road quickly changes to challenging mud and remains that way till Dir (pronounced deer), which is around 40 kilometers away. Although lovely, it reminds me of The Beauty and the Beast. You can never predict what will happen. Truck drivers on the Pass practically risk their lives.

History of  Lowari Pass

Chitral and Peshawar are connected by a path called Lowari Pass. A stream from the Hindukush Mountains ranges can be found in the Hindu Raj at roughly 3100 meters. Although it is not exceptionally high in terms of passes, this is the shortest and most straightforward way to cross steep terrain.

People are forced to hike the Pass in the snow because it is impassable to vehicles from November to May owing to snowfall. Avalanches are supposed to have claimed the lives of countless travelers along the road. The vehicles travel via the Lowari Pass. Snowmelt makes the road muddy, and pebbles frequently drop from above. There are numerous hairpin turns on the Chitral side of the Pass.

A truck at one of Chaikhana’s rest areas is located at the base of the Lowari Pass. After navigating the perilous Pass, travelers frequently stop in this little valley surrounded by evergreen woods.

Lowari Tunnel

However, this scene is no longer present. To make it easier for vehicles to pass, the Lowari Tunnel opened in 2017 and became available to general traffic in 2018. A Korean corporation was involved in designing and building the tunnel under the Lowari Pass, but it was stopped in the middle of the project in 2009. It was finally opened in July 2017 after construction was resumed in 2013. It is the longest tunnel in Pakistan and consists of two tunnels: an 8.5 km tunnel that is longer and a 1.9 km tunnel.

You might have to wait in a long line since both directions of traffic are controlled for safety reasons. However, compared to the past, when ascending and descending the Lowari Pass felt like it would take forever, as well as situations where a truck would become trapped in the road and be unable to move or go around it, these issues are no longer as serious. The tunnel took away the fear of not knowing when, if ever, you would come out of the tunnel.

Total Cost of Lowari Tunnel

It is reported that over the past 18 years, the Lowari Tunnel Project’s budget increased by approximately 475% to Rs. 46 billion, primarily due to execution delays and a lack of funding.

The Lowari Road Tunnel & Access Roads Project’s original PC-I indicates that the program’s expenditure was Rs. 7.984 billion in 2004 and increased to Rs. 46.040 billion in the third amended PC-I for 2022.

ECNEC authorized the initial project on July 27, 2004, for a cost of Rs. 7,983.7 billion, including FEC of Rs. 1,602.2 million, and called for the building works of an 8.60 km lengthy mini–Powered Rail Tunnel to provide the infrastructure of a piggyback transit system for road transport of loaded transport trucks, passenger wagons, packed cargo pickups, and passenger wagons from one portal to the other. After completing the entire cut between portals, the 8.51 km, Lowari Rail Tunnel was finally opened on January 15, 2009.

 Later, it was chosen to increase the current cross-section of the tunnel by roughly up to 3 meters to accommodate space for cable pipes, a 2-lane road, and a 2.0-meter emergency lane to convert an already railway line chamber into a road tunnel. On November 11, 2011, ECNEC authorized the PC-I with this increased scope, costing Rs. 18,132.544 million, including Rs. 5,877.438 million in FEC.

The decision to increase the carriageway’s width from 6 meters to 7.5 meters for safe traffic passage was made on October 31, 2012. A second revised PC-I was created for processing through CDWP/ECNEC as a result of this intervention, which resulted in a project cost increase from Rs. 18,132.544 million to Rs. 26,855.00 million, including FEC of Rs. 5,870.00 million. NHA also cited changes in currency rates and increased market prices for specific cost categories as factors for the 2nd Revised PC revisions.

The project’s second amended PC-I, which had a total cost of Rs. 26,855.00 million, including FEC of Rs. 5,870.00 million, was authorized by the ECNEC on August 22, 2016. The project’s third revised PC-I, with expenses increasing from Rs. 26,855.00 million to Rs. 46,039.699 million, was submitted by the funders (71 percent increase).

Pakistan’s Longest High-Altitude Tunnel

Lowari tunnel, which replaced Pakistan’s previous giant tunnel, the 3.91 km (2.43 mi) Khojak Tunnel, in 2018, is one of the biggest in South Asia and the biggest in the country.

Lowari Tunnel

Pakistan’s Top Visiting Place – Lowari Tunnel

All year, clouds typically obscure Lowari Top’s peak. On a clear, sunny day, fortunate travelers can witness breathtaking views on both ends. On the top, there are constantly strong winds that, while they might not be strong enough to lift you off the ground, are strong enough to transport your headwear or other little items away, so hang on to them tightly. When they reach the summit, the visitor will encounter a modest stone house that serves as a customs checkpoint and an adjacent tea stall.

Gypsy Gujar households may be spotted traveling on the road in the spring and late summer with their camps and goods. The southern terminus of a tunnel intended to pass under the peak and enable year-round travel is located in a hole in the hillside. However, it might never be completed due to technological and financial issues.

Top Benefits of Lowari Tunnel

Reducing Long-Distance Drive / All-Season Transportation

Chitral is connected to the rest of Pakistan via the 8.75-kilometer-long Lowari Tunnel, which runs from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province through Dir and the Chitral Valley to the Asian nations via the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan route.

The tunnel effectively makes the Lowari Pass off-limits to traffic on the N45 National Highway, which was built to cut the 14-hour travel between Chitral and Peshawar to just 7 hours. Additionally, when Lowari Top is closed to winter traffic, Chitral residents must cross into Afghanistan before returning to Pakistan. Winter travel to Chitral is still impossible, but the tunnel will make it easier.

Economic Development

The locals have long been calling for the development of the Lowari Tunnel. Through increased trade activity, the project will boost economic growth. It will also create jobs for residents, stimulate tourism, and shorten travel times for passengers in commercial traffic.

Lowari Tunnel

Among the possibilities are the extraction of mines and resources, gems and gemstones, marble, and granite, the development of Chitral as a business center, the expansion of the tourism sector, and the creation of tens of hundreds of jobs for locals. Additionally, it will mainstream Chitral in the country.           

Latest Construction Project on Lowari Tunnel 2022

Over the past 18 years, the cost of the Lowari Tunnel project has increased primarily due to building delays, a lack of funding, and the depreciation of the Pakistani rupee. The project’s duration, from September 2005 to October 2024, is 19 years and two months (230 months).

How Much is the Length of the Lowari Tunnel?

Between Dir and Drosh, the Lowari Road Tunnel and Access Roads Project connect the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts of Dir and Chitral.

A 475 percent rise above the initial PC-I cost approved in 2004 is anticipated to bring the cost to 46 billion. The length of the Lowari Tunnel is 10.4 Kilometers. 

Location of Lowari Tunnel

The famous Lowari tunnel is a 10.4 km (6.5 mi) long tunnel that runs beneath Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Dir and Chitral in the Hindu Kush mountains. It transports vehicles on the N-45 National Highway and is run by the National Highway Authority.

FAQs

Which is the longest tunnel in Pakistan?

The Lowari Tunnel is one of the longest in South Asia and is the longest in Pakistan, superseding the 3.91 km (2.43 mi) Khojak Tunnel in 2018.

Who made the Lowari tunnel?

The tunnel, which replaced Pakistan’s previous giant tunnel, the 3.91 km (2.43 mi) Khojak Tunnel in 2018, is one of the longest in South Asia and the longest in the country. A South Korean Company made this tunnel. 

Is Lowari Tunnel open in winter?

Since the Lowari Pass is blocked for a significant period in the winter, visitors to and from Chitral formerly had to cross into Afghanistan before returning to Pakistan to reach the rest of the nation. The Lowari tunnel also makes all-weather travel possible as it remains open in winter.