ISLAMABAD: Despite a looming water crisis, bureaucratic wrangling has stalled implementation on a World Bank-funded $73 million project that will deny the country the intended benefits from better management of water resources in the Indus River basin.
In its latest report on the Water Sector Capacity Building and Advisory Services Project, known as WCAP, the World Bank has described progress on the project as “moderately satisfactory”.
Since its start in 2008, the project has been facing delays and things are at a standstill after the approval of additional financing of $35 million in November 2015.
The stated project objective is to improve management and investment planning of water resources in the Indus River Basin. A World Bank mission visited Pakistan last month to review progress against the agreed actions.
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“Unfortunately, demonstrable progress since February has been minimal,” notes the implementation status and results report of the project that the World Band released on Monday.
With Pakistan being a water-deficient country, the interventions planned under the loan were aimed at enhancing the economic usage of the scarce resource, improving governance and enhancing technical efficiency.
However, the Ministry of Water and Power’s desire to keep control over the project through its grade 21 officer has stalled work on the project.
There is no permanent project director for the $73 million project and the affairs of the scheme are in the hands of Additional Water and Power Secretary Hassan Nasir Jamy.
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The proposed actions on institutional capacity building were aimed at timely completion of the current World Bank-funded projects. The project documents showed that due to delay in the construction of ongoing hydropower projects the country’s Gross Domestic Product would be 1.36% less.
The World Bank mission noted that discussions with Jamy and Joint Secretary Syed Mehr Ali Shah confirmed that the project management and policy implementation unit (PMPIU) “currently remains dysfunctional due to a leadership vacuum, and disbursements and procurement are all but stalled”.
The bank further stated that the Ministry of Water and Power had on multiple occasions suggested new arrangements for the project leadership but the authorities concerned did not implement any such arrangements, and as a consequence project implementation has effectively stalled.
The bank said the ministry assured to re-scope the project to more strategically address key issues in water resource planning and management in the Indus Basin, but the re-scoped activities are yet to be considered and endorsed by the Project Steering Committee and communicated to the bank in writing.
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In November 2015, the World Bank had approved an additional credit of $35 million to scale up project activities and consolidate the gains made under the initial phase. The board had also extended the project implementation period by five years and five months to allow time for the implementation of new and scaled-up activities.
In June 2008, the World Bank initially approved a $38 million loan to improve management and investment planning of water resources in the Indus River system. However, project implementation was slow during the first three years.
As a result of the first restricting took place in the PPP government, the funds were diverted towards planning document – PC I – for the Tarbela 4th Extension Hydropower Project and the Dasu Run-of-River Hydropower Project.
The World Bank has recommended Pakistan that new and appropriate project leadership arrangements be implemented quickly, and a meeting of the steering committee should be convened as soon as possible to seek endorsement of the proposed re-scoping of the project.
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The World Bank mission noted that there has been no progress on formal monitoring and evaluation of project outcomes, and this remains an important task for the incoming project leadership. Also, only five more telemetry stations could be upgraded since 2008.
Due to bureaucratic tussles, work on important studies like upgrading capacity of the Federal Flood Commission in managing floods and upgrading of the Master Plan of Flood Management of Hill Torrents of Pakistan has been delayed.
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