Chirah Dam: Senators annoyed over inordinate delays

Published: January 4, 2017
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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat expressed serious annoyance over inordinate delays in the construction of Chirah Dam and summoned the Punjab Irrigation secretary, the Small Dams Organisation chief engineer, and Capital Development Authority (CDA) officials in its next meeting.

The proposed dam would be built on the Soan River near Chirah Village, about 25 km from Murree, and was conceived in the 1980s. It was expected to provide over 15 million gallons of water per day (MGD) to the twin cities. Progress, however, was stopped by the PML-N led Punjab government after the 2008 general elections, when the PPP was in power in the centre.

The Senate panel met at Parliament House on Tuesday under the chair of Senator Talha Mehmood. In reply to a question raised by Senator Col (retd) Tahir Hussain Mashadi, CDA Planning Member Asad Mehbood Kiyani told the committee that the dam was supposed to be built by the Punjab Government and Capital Development Authority (CDA) with an equal cost-sharing formula.

He said that in 2005, a Rs5 billion project concept (PC-1) was also prepared and the Punjab Government had also obtained approval for a PC-1 from the National Economic Council (ECNEC) Executive Committee in 2009. Kiyani, however, said that after approval of project concept the work on the dam could not be initiated. “The Punjab Irrigation Department has now prepared a fresh PC-1, according to which the cost of the project has escalated to Rs18 billion,” the CDA member said. At this, the chairman of the committee and its members expressed serious discontentment and said that if construction was completed on schedule, then three more dams could be constructed at this cost, but due to practical negligence the nation had to suffer from losses of billions of rupees.

The committee members said that responsibility should be fixed against those who were responsible for the delay of the project. They said that project might have been completed long ago if the CDA resumed it by its own initiative.

Sanitary and cleanliness issues of Parliament Lodges were later reviewed at length. Senator Mir Muhammad Yousaf Badini said there were only 35 sanitary workers to maintain 350 apartments. He said that sanitary workers were paid Rs14,000 per month and they worked for 18 hours per day. At this, committee members were told that according to the terms of reference (TORs) there were supposed to be 128 sanitary staff deputed at Parliament Lodges and Rs1.8 million had been spared for this. At this, committee members directed CDA Chairman Sheikh Anser Aziz to conduct an inquiry and recommend for recovery of the additional amount from the contractor.

Committee Chairman Mehmood also directed the CDA chief to implement the directions of the standing committee regarding allotment of a charity plot to Pakistan Air Force Women Association (PAFWA) and submit a report in the committee. Senator Kulsoom Parveen said former Senator Sadia Abbasi had also written a letter to the Senate chairman in which the same objections were raised against the allotment of a charity plot to PAFWA. Discussing the central car pool, it was revealed that millions of rupees were spent on maintenance and repairs of vehicles. At this, the Cabinet secretary briefed committee members on the details of vehicles in the pool and total repair expenditure.

He told the committee members that there were only 65 vehicles in the central pool, two of which were bulletproof limousines, along with three bulletproof luxury sedans and 21 other luxury sedans. At this, the committee chairman said that if the luxury cars were 1992-93 models and millions were spent on their maintenance, it would be better to auction them off and buy new cars.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2017.

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