Unsatisfactory: Only 30% funds released for water, power projects

Work on vital projects slows down, their costs go up

Zafar Bhutta February 16, 2017
Sukkur Barrage would become useless in the next 10 years if the water reservoir was not rehabilitated. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Scores of water and power projects have slowed down as the government could so far release only 25-30% of funds allocated for financial year 2016-17, say officials of the Ministry of Water and Power.

Briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Water and Power that met on Wednesday under the chairmanship of MNA Muhammad Arshad Khan Leghari, the ministry officials said of a total of Rs216 billion for 173 projects, only 25-30% was released in the current financial year.

For the next year, Rs231 billion has been sought for 180 water and power projects.

The parliamentary panel was apprised about budgetary proposals for the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the next financial year 2017-18.

It endorsed all the proposals of power distribution companies and directed them to give top priority to completing the ongoing projects.

The panel was of the view that due to delay in completion of the projects, their costs had increased, causing a huge loss to the national exchequer. It also decided to approach the Finance and Planning Divisions for allocation of the proposed funds to the Ministry of Water and Power in the next financial year.

Additional Water and Power Secretary Hassan Nasir Jami told the parliamentary body that they had sought Rs150 billion for water projects under the PSDP for the next financial year 2017-18.

The allocation for water and power projects had dropped to Rs31 billion from Rs70 billion, he said, arguing that funds for water schemes were not enough to meet the requirement.

Jami pointed out that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) wanted Rs46 billion for four water schemes and demanded Rs127 billion in the next financial year’s budget for new schemes. K-P had four fertile districts but they were connected to an old irrigation system, he said.

Similarly, Balochistan has sought Rs18 billion for three schemes and needs an allocation of Rs91.8 billion for 18 new schemes.

Officials of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) told committee members that the cost of mega Kachhi Canal project had jumped up to Rs80 billion compared to earlier Rs57 billion.

The committee members voiced concern over the cost escalation and made queries about accountability.

Sindh’s chief engineer of irrigation pointed out that they had planned six projects for the harvesting of rainwater and for that they needed land. “Sindh requires Rs91 billion for new projects, but it has demanded Rs74 billion in the next financial year,” he said.

He warned that the Sukkur Barrage would become useless in the next 10 years if the water reservoir was not rehabilitated. “Sindh has demanded Rs16 billion for the barrage which will enhance its life by 40 years.”

Earlier, State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali briefed the committee on projects included in the PSDP for 2017-18.

He suggested that provinces should also bear responsibility and release matching grant to resolve the issue of fund shortage. He emphasised that the government had provided funds for re-gasified liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plants and Diamer-Bhasha Dam, which would play its role in meeting the government’s responsibility.

He acknowledged that Pakistan was facing water losses and no new storages had been built over the years. He stressed that the people behind the delay in projects should be held accountable and awarded punishment.

Committee members proposed that a bill should be brought in that regard and a policy should also be framed.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2017.

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