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Challenges and opportunities connected with ROW.

Byline: Zain Malik

Right of way (ROW) in simpler terms means that legal permission is required as a right for the construction, conservation, expansion, and protection of a piece of land or a commuting route. In other words, when an organisation may it be the government or private, intends to build or improve the infrastructure of a city or district, or even at the national level; ROW is needed before any work may be initiated in this way. When it comes to Pakistan, there are a lot of challenges being faced by companies from the government, municipal administrations, and even private owners when it comes to developing the infrastructure of a region.

Apropos to this, once the government-led ROW policies are implemented, it will create ample opportunities particularly for the telecom sector including all other stakeholders. The allowance or permission of the ROW is an issue mainly because it is integrated by laborious procedures, processes, permits, among other activities within the different areas of government, which must be completed for their acquisition. It includes budget authorisation, property registration, investigation, identification and location of possible owners, and reasonable negotiations, etc. that make their acquisition almost impossible. Such complexities are coupled with the insufficient budget of the government entities for the acquisition and delays in the processes that make it very hard for the organisations to conduct their businesses.

Another obstacle related to ROW that the government also faces from time to time is the issue of liberation in areas with environmental or archaeological consideration. This causes further delays and hurdles since all government bodies must comply with the procedures and permits that are imposed under the law of the land. Taking into consideration all these factors, it results in time consuming and tedious processes that need to be followed, which translates into delays in starting the work and extra cost of doing business. However, with a proper ROW solution led by the government, the cost of doing business for the public and private companies will be considerably minimised. When the government's support is provided to the corporate sector, the ultimate benefit is to the general public. The private companies are being forced to bear huge cost of doing business as there is no uniformity in implementing a strategic solution for the ROW across Pakistan.

In the case of public-private association, law of the land may allow for the acquisition of the ROW by private parties. However, this premise causes uncertainty as private companies still oppose taking risks. Contrary to this opposition from private parties, this would be considered the most viable option to solve the ROW problem, since private companies have fewer restrictions to acquire through purchases directly between entities, without being subject to an appraisal restriction. Currently, in Pakistan, there is a great debate brewing about the ROW when it comes to building a nationwide infrastructure of fiber optic cables. Internet is a basic need for everyone and without the proper infrastructure in place; its availability is highly difficult and tough. The ideal scenario will be access of seamless internet with the highest ever download speeds and virtually zero downtime for the service. All these opportunities such as online education, medical procedures being done remotely, online shopping, real-time business and communications are directly connected with internet access. Resolving issues related to ROW will revitalise the national economy and enable social inclusion in Pakistan.
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Author:Zain Malik
Publication:The Nation (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 10, 2021
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