ISLAMABAD: After much delay, the government has decided to build two waste treatment plants for filtering contaminated waters falling into the Korang River and Rawal Dam in the federal capital.
The approval seems to have been granted by the federal government ahead of deliberations on the projects in a high-level body of the federal government on economic projects and in light of directions from the top court.
Government sources have disclosed that despite initial plans to set up four treatment plants in the federal capital, they now intend to set up just two plants in Dhoke Jillani and Shahdara.
Last month, the Supreme Court had directed the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to secure approval for these four treatment plants and submit a report to the court within 10 days.
Subsequently, the projects were taken up in a meeting of the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) on February 19 under the physical planning category. The project costs a total of Rs3.518 billion.
Since this amount was higher than CDWP’s limit of Rs3 billion to approve projects, the project was referred to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) — the government’s highest decision-making body for development projects — for review and approval.
However, now, the government has decided to partially approve the project, building only two of the plants at a cost of Rs1.6 billion. These plants will be built in Dhok Jillani and Shahdara.
The CDA had initially planned to build five Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) in the catchment areas of the federal capital. However, the project has been facing bureaucratic hiccups while the presence of illegal settlements in and around the designated project sites was making the task even harder.
According to the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC), the plants were to be installed in the catchment areas of Bari Imam, Lower and Upper Shahdra and Simly dam. Officials had estimated that it may take up to half a year to get its PC-I approved from the Planning Commission due to some technical issues.
A project concept-I (PC-I) for the treatment plants had been prepared by the government in 2012 with an estimated cost of Rs2 billion at the time. The project, though faced delays owing to bureaucratic hiccups and the government’s desire that two of these plants are built and run in some form of public-private partnership.
After the apex court took a suo moto notice of the pollution in the Rawal Lake, the issue of the treatment plants cropped up and the court directed the CDA, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) and the Islamabad Commissioner to install the plants.
A revision of the PC-I last year ballooned its cost to Rs3.5 billion.
Last year, an EPA report submitted to the top court suggested immediate, short-term and long-term measures to protect the water in the dam.
The report called for raising an enforcement force which would monitor the quality of the water in the dam at regular intervals apart from building a boundary around the dam to discourage encroachment.
It was also suggested placement of new sewerage lines in catchment area near the dam while it also urged legal actions against the citizens involved in littering and polluting the dam, adding that some 25 housing societies and other adjoining areas are being affected due to non-installation of plants.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2019.