Two hundred and fifty labourers and 30 engineers are working three shifts a day to ensure completion of the Kartarpur corridor — comprising a four-lane highway to the Pakistan border and a state-of-the-art passenger terminal — by October 31.
India is pushing ahead fast with the Rs 500 crore-corridor that will allow thousands of pilgrims to travel from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev in November.
The Kartarpur shrine in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the Ravi is where Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, spent his final days, and is highly revered by the Sikh community. It is about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur.
The facilities that India is working on would cater to 10,000 pilgrims a day on religious occasions, like Guru Purab, and 5,000 pilgrims a day on other days round the year.
The Kartarpur facilities are to be built over 50 acres. In the first phase, a state-of-the-art passenger terminal, parking facilities and other amenities for pilgrims are being constructed over 15 acres.
According to sources, with security of “paramount importance”, all arrangements, including CCTV cameras and high-tech surveillance apparatus, would soon be in place.
The facilities would ensure quick movement of pilgrims, who are expected to come in thousands for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. Immigration, customs desks would be in place, including desks to issue on the spot documentation to pilgrims who do not have passports.
Extensive space are also being readied for parking 500 four-wheelers and 250 two-wheelers and around 10 buses.
While 60 per cent of the four-lane highway — that will connect the Zero point of the Kartarpur corridor on the border with Pakistan to National Highway 351, has been completed, work on the state-of-the art passenger terminal is moving at a fast pace.
“Excavation work for the terminal is over, and columns, plinths with reinforced cement concrete are being laid, which will be completed in another 20 days. Pre-fabricated steel structures would be laid on the plinths, which will not take long to install. The pre-fabrication is being done at the factory location and would be transported to the site,” said a source.
When ready, the passenger terminal building will look like another airport, and cater to 5,000 people at a time. It will have 52 immigration counters, including two for VVIPs. A spacious lounge is being built to cater to 5,000 pilgrims at a time. There will also be 54 counters for security checking of the pilgrims. Once the pilgrims are cleared they would move to Zero point on the border to proceed straight to Pakistan for the onward journey.
Vendors for plumbing, electrical and other works have been fixed, and orders for the furniture, the air-conditioning, the roofing etc have also been placed. State-of-the-art landscaping will be done.
The highway from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to the border is a 4.2 km stretch. The four-lane tree-lined carriageway will have a service lane on both sides and eight culverts, of which seven have been completed. In comparison to India’s building a four-lane carriageway, Pakistan appears to be building a two-lane road, sources said.
India is also building a 70 metre long bridge with 10 piers at the site to drain off water from the Ravi river creek.
The Ravi creek floods during rains and since India is on the downward incline, the water would flow towards India and flood the fields and homes.
India had requested Pakistan to build a bridge on its side to prevent the rain and flood waters from flowing into India, but Pakistan initially built a mud embankment.
After New Delhi raised the issue during technical meetings, Islamabad agreed to build a causeway – or a concrete embankment. India wants Pakistan to build a bridge on its side as a causeway would not solve the problem of flooding, sources said.
“We cannot put our villagers at risk of constant flooding due to the embankment on the Pakistani side. We would like Pakistan to build a bridge on its side as a permanent all-weather solution to the problem of flooding,” the sources added.
Of the 250 metre-wide Ravi creek channel, 70 metres is on India’s side, and the rest in Pakistani territory. While Pakistan is building a bridge over the Ravi river, India wants it to also build a bridge over the Ravi creek area.
Technical teams from both sides have met thrice – on March 19, April 16 and May 27 – at the border to thrash out such issues. While initially the Pakistani side agreed to build a bridge over the creek, later it demurred.
India is to present Pakistan with the flooding data. The area had seen floods in 2013.
Since the highway is to run perpendicular to the river, and with India being on the lower incline, there are worries of regular flooding in the villages of Punjab, the sources added.
For the November inauguration, a possible mid-way solution could be proposed to Pakistan — for construction of a service lane to match the causeway.