Red tape at work

Published: January 12, 2019

Despite having acknowledged that the few reservoirs and the dwindling supply of water were a key concern of the incumbent government and that resolving this crisis a top priority, the government appears to be dragging its feet over allocating sufficient resources for the construction of these reservoirs. The latest amongst them is the Nai Gaj Dam project.

With a Supreme Court deadline looming, the government seems to have done the bare minimum it could have to stave off any action for a while, without actually moving to do something about it. A meeting of the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) held on Thursday was supposed to revise the cost of the project. However, the meeting merely approved the project for discussion at a higher forum without reaching any decision on its actual revised cost or who will pay for it.

In 2009, the then government had approved the dam at a total cost of Rs16.5 billion, of which 96 per cent was to be funded by the federal government. Cost overruns saw the total sum revised upwards to Rs26.2 billion in 2012. But the Ministry of Water Resources and the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) have now come up with another revised PC-I for the project which nearly doubles the cost to Rs47.7 billion. The Planning Ministry, though, proposed cut in the cost to Rs41.8 billion and sent the matter to the CDWP for approval.

The CDWP, which can only approve projects up to Rs3 billion, placed its rubber stamp on a revised project estimate of Rs46.5 billion and forwarded it to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) for final approval. Moreover, the federal government is expecting the Sindh government to pay around Rs15.6 billion for the dam apart from working with the Centre to complete the project.

There appears no quick resolution of the dam issue as it is found in the firm grasp of typical bureaucratic red tape. And herein lies the government’s greatest challenge.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2019.

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