Cost of Kachhi canal project soars up to Rs80b

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The government has still not any taken action against those responsible for delays and irregularities in Kachhi canal project while the cost of supplying water to the parched land and over two million population of Balochistan has soared up to over Rs80billion.

The Kachhi canal project was inaugurated in October 2002 at Taunsa Barrage prior to the approval of feasibility study and PC-I — a document stating financial and engineering details of the project. The PC-I of the project was approved by the ECNEC at a cost of Rs 20 billion in the year 2003, however, later the PC-I was revised with an escalating cost of more than Rs 57 billion with project completion to be in 2007. But, it is delayed due to serious irregularities, embezzlement, poor planning, faulty design, corruption and haphazard implementation.

The 2nd revised PC-1 (Phase-1) of Kachhi canal project amounting to Rs102.078billion was tabled before the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) for approval on October 10, 2016.

However, finding high-cost estimates of the project, the CDWP asked the ministry of water and power to review the cost estimates. The second revised PC-1 amounting to Rs 80 billion had been submitted to the Planning Commission on December 28, 2016, for approval. But, the CDWP has still not made approval to the second revised PC-1 of the project. And, the construction work on phase-I of the project is still under implementation, said WAPDA officials.

Surprisingly, cost of the project has soared from Rs 57.6 billion to over Rs 80 billion, while, responsible held in an inquiry commission constituted by Prime Minster Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to fix responsibility for the alleged massive illegalities in the conception, execution and completion of Kachhi canal project are roaming freely as no action was reported till the filing of this story.

“Although an inquiry commission of former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has completed its investigation and submitted the findings to the PM Office as well, yet no action has been taken against those held responsible in the inquiry,” a senior official at Planning Ministry said on the condition of anonymity.

The project which is said to bring green revolution in Balochistan by providing irrigation water for 713,000 acres of land and drinking water facility to around two million people is scheduled to be completed in three phases (phase-I, 102,000 acres in district Dera Bugti; phase-II, 267,000 acres in district Bolan and Naseerabad, and phase-III, 344,000 acres in district Bolan, Naseerabad and Jhal Magsi). The government has targeted to complete the Phase-I of the project by December 2016. However, presently, Phase-1 is under implementation.

WAPDA official believes that additional funding/supplementary grant of Rs10, 000 million (Rs 10bln) in addition to allocation of Rs 5,000 million (Rs5bln) during the financial year 2016-17 would help facilitate to make the canal operation for irrigation of 55,000 acres (Phase-1). Similarly, an amounting of Rs7, 117million will be required during 2017-18 to make the canal operational by November 30, 2017, for irrigation of remaining 17,000 acres of total 72,000 acres of Dera Bugti (Phase-1) of Balochistan province.

Officials at the WAPDA are of the opinion that the delay in the project is because of inadequate PSDP funding which has severely disturbed the timeline schedule and resulted in cost and time overrun of the project. An amount of Rs5, 000 million (Rs5b) has been allocated for the year 2016-17.

Liability of Rs5, 572 million is still outstanding against certified interim payment certificates (IPCs), consultancy and security service charges. The contractor may claim the interest charges under the provisions of the contract, said official documents available with Pakistan Today.

Officials of Planning Commission in a briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Reforms, held under the committee chairman Senator Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi on January 25, said that ministry has no objection in releasing demanded funds only if a deadline for the completion of much-delayed project is guaranteed.

They said requisite funds demands for a requisite time period of the completion. “If WAPDA gives a guarantee that 55,000 acres (Phase-1) will be irrigated till June 2017, the ministry will be ready to satisfy the demand of funds,” an official assured the committee.

Kachhi Canal off-takes from Taunsa Barrage on Indus River and passes through districts Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur in Punjab and then meanders through districts Dera Bugti, Naseerabad, Bolan and Jhal Magsi in Balochistan, the province in which the project’s command area lies. The limited working hours and adverse law and order situation in the tribal areas of districts Rajanpur (Punjab) and Dera Bugti (Balochistan) compounded the problem.

It is worth mentioning that inadequate Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) funding for the Kachhi canal project believed as one of the major causes affecting the pace of work on the project, while lower than required release of funds has adversely affected the pace of progress and projected target.

During the fiscal year 2014-2015, a demand of allocation of Rs 17 billion in PSDP was made, however, Rs 12 billion was allocated in PSDP and Rs 9.139 billion released, while in 2013-2014 the government allocated Rs5.2 billion and released Rs4.3 billion against a demand of Rs 17.7 billion.

Documents further reveal that the trend to release lower than demand for specific projects was evident during the tenure of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government.

In 2011-2012, the budgeted allocation was Rs 2.6 billion against a demand of Rs 25 billion while in 2010-2011 Rs 1.380 billion was released against the demand of Rs 17 billion. Also, Musharraf’s tenure was no exception.

Besides, the government has still not released the required funds from Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for Kachhi canal project which would cause further delay in its completion.