Lowari Pass Tunnel or Lowari Top is a mountain pass that connects Chitral with Dir in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The pass, which is also known as Lowari Top, is located at an elevation of 10,230 feet above sea level and is the lowest pass to enter Chitral. The rest of the passes to enter Chitral are much higher, ranging from 12,000 to 15,000 feet.
Importance and Significance of Lowari Pass Tunnel
Lowari pass is an important route for trade and travel between Chitral and Dir, as well as for access to other parts of Pakistan. However, the pass is often closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall, which can cause avalanches and make the road dangerous.
In order to address this issue, the Government of Pakistan initiated the construction of a tunnel through the Lowari Pass in 2005. The tunnel, which is over 8 kilometers long, was finally completed in 2017 and has made travel between Chitral and Dir much safer and more reliable, particularly during the winter months.
Prior to the construction of the Lowari Pass tunnel, the journey over the pass was a challenging and dangerous one, as the road was narrow, winding, and prone to landslides and other hazards. The journey often took several hours and was particularly difficult for those travelling in large vehicles, such as buses and trucks.
The construction of Lowari Pass the tunnel was a significant engineering feat, as it involved drilling through solid rock at a high altitude and in difficult terrain. The tunnel is equipped with modern ventilation systems, lighting, and emergency exits, and has significantly reduced the travel time between Chitral and Dir.
The completion of the Lowari Pass Tunnel has had a significant impact on the people of Chitral and Dir, as it has improved access to healthcare, education, and other essential services. It has also boosted trade and economic development in the region, as goods can now be transported more easily and reliably between the two districts.
Lowari Pass History
Lowari Top is closed by snow every year from the end of November to the end of May. During this time, jeeps cannot cross, so the men must travel on foot. This is dangerous because there are high mountains on each side of Lowari Top and a deadly avalanche can come at any moment without warning.
Every winter several people are killed by avalanches while crossing Lowari Top. Their bodies are buried under the snow and only when summer comes and the snow melts are their bodies found and their fate known.
Still, Lowari Top remains popular as it is the shortest route from Chitral to Peshawar. The other route would be along the Kunar River to Jalalabad through hostile Afghan territory, or by a much longer route over Shandur Top to Gilgit.
Lowari Top crosses the Hindu Raj Mountains, a spur of the higher Hindu Kush. On the Chitral side of the Lowari Top are the people of Ashret who speak the Palula language and have been assigned by the Mehtar of Chitral to be the guardians of the Lowari Top.
On the Dir side live the Khowars, some of whom make their living as porters carrying loads across the Lowari Top.
In 1954, Mehtar of Chitral was killed when his plane crashed into Lowari Top.
It is believed that the word “Top” is not the English word “top”, but a word from an ancient language that is no longer spoken there.
Lowari Top is one of the four main mountain passes to enter Chitral. Others are Dorah Pass from Badakshan in Afghanistan, Shandur Top from Gilgit and Broghol from Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan.
Construction of Lowari Pass
The Lowari Tunnel was built under the Lowari Pass by the South Korean company Sambu in 2009. However, the tunnel was abandoned shortly after and has since fallen into disrepair.
The tunnel has been operational since December 2019 and is over 8.5 km long.
It winds through the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The road is known locally as the Road to Hell. It was built by the British and it is a road where even the smallest mistake can be fatal. It is a relatively low pass, by far the lowest pass to enter Chitral, the rest all being 12,000 to 15,000 feet.
Despite being shown as paved on some maps, it turns to very coarse dirt once the steep slope begins and stays that way until Dir (pronounced deer) about 40km later. It’s beautiful, but it’s like Beauty and the Beast. You never really know what’s going to happen. Truckers on the pass leave their lives literally on the edge.
Location of Lowari Top
Located high in the Hindu Raj, the pass, also known as Lawari, Lawarai or Lowari Top, is snow-capped every year from late November to late May.
This twisted nightmare of a road is full of heavily loaded trucks. Driving trucks through this pass is the only way these remote villagers can make a living. Steep, narrow and extremely dangerous.
Some drivers turn to drugs to overcome their fear. It’s a narrow road with lots of hairpin turns all along the way. It is an extreme journey with many close turns on the road. The road climbs over cliffs at over 10,000 feet. There are a lot of dirt serpentines. This is dangerous because there are high mountains on each side of Lowari Top and a deadly avalanche can come at any moment without warning.
Every winter several people are killed by avalanches while crossing Lowari Top. Their bodies are buried under the snow and only when summer comes and the snow melts are their bodies found and their fate known. The road is muddy from melting snow and stones are constantly falling from above.
The most dangerous part of the road, a narrow section along the edge of the cliffs, was replaced in 2009 by a tunnel called the Lowari Tunnel, built by a South Korean company. But the tunnel was abandoned shortly after and has since fallen into disrepair.
Lowari Tunnel Length
Finally, in July 2017, the tunnel was opened to bypass the most dangerous sections of the drive. Construction began in September 1975. The tunnel is 8.75 km (5.4 mi) + 2 km (1.2 mi) long and facilitates all-weather traffic as the pass is closed during the long winter season.
All types of vehicular traffic can pass through the tunnels (24 feet wide and 16 feet high). It can be open 24 hours even in the harsh winter season with a speed limit of 40 kilometers.
In conclusion, the Lowari Pass Tunnel has been a game-changer for the people of Chitral and Dir, providing a safer, faster, and more reliable route between the two districts. The completion of the tunnel is a testament to the resilience and determination of the people of Pakistan, who have worked tirelessly to improve the infrastructure and connectivity of their country.