Sindh to levy tax ground, surface water for commercial use

It is proposed that an initial pricing of Rs1 per litre tax be placed

Hafeez Tunio March 04, 2020
Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet gave a nod to finalise the 'Sindh Water Act 2020,' under which taxes would be imposed on the use of ground and surface water for commercial purposes, during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. The decision was made in light of a court order, which came after the dissolution of the commission on water and sanitation in Sindh.

During the cabinet meeting, chaired by Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Murad Ali Shah, it was decided that a committee would be formed under the supervision of the CM to review the law.

Sindh chief secretary, local government minister, irrigation minister, agriculture minister and public health minister are to be included as members in the committee that will review the law and send it to the law department for vetting.

"The committee may form a separate body to regulate the matters of groundwater, which was being extracted by many bottled water companies," an official privy to the development told The Express Tribune. Another official working in a local government department maintained that underground water worth billions of rupees is being extracted by various mineral and soft drink companies. He said that the initial pricing of Rs1 per litre tax on extracted groundwater was proposed at the meeting, and it was decided that the revenue collected would be distributed among water and sewerage boards across the province.

According to Water Aid Pakistan Policy and Advocay Manager Nadeem Ahmed, large amount of water is also wasted from tube wells, which run round the clock, extracting water unnecessarily. "People have now installed solar tube wells, meaning that they are able to run it the whole day," he maintained. According to Ahmed, the government must impose a tax on tube wells and task local authorities to monitor this. "The per capita availability of water, which was over 5,200 cubic metres at the time of independence, has now depleted below 1,000 cubic metres per head, making Pakistan a water-scarce country," he added.

Meanwhile, agriculture department officials, while briefing the cabinet, stated that three phases of tractor purchases on a government subsidy were completed but the fourth phase came to a standstill after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) took up the issue. Under the plan, 6,200 tractors would be given out on government subsidy. For this purpose, the government has released Rs450 million to the Sindh Bank.

At the meeting, food department officials briefed the cabinet about the wheat procurement plan for crop for 2019-20. Under the plan, along with the fair distribution of bardana (gunny bags) among growers, the district-wise procurement target would be fixed on proportional basis. The cabinet also approved the purchase of 20 per cent jute bags and 80 per cent polypropylene bags. It was further decided that functional flour mills would be allowed to retain a wheat stock of 90 days as per their sanctioned grinding capacity.

The food department proposed that the support price for wheat be fixed at Rs1,400 per 40kg. At this, the chief minister said that the federal government had fixed it at Rs1,365 per 40kg support price and was going to revise it. He directed the chief secretary to coordinate with the federal government so that the Centre and the province could fix the same minimum support price, urging that the decision be taken within the next four days.

The Sindh cabinet, meanwhile, also, approved the transfer of 1,530 acres of land located in Deh Gharo, Dhabeji District Thatta to the Sindh Investment Department to establish it as the China Economic Zone Dhabeji.

Additionally, the Cabinet, after the thorough discussion, gave a term's extension to eight vice-chancellors (VCs)of varsities across the provinces. The VCs belong to the NED University of Engineering and Technology, Mehran University, Shah Abdul Latif University, Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences Jamshoro, the Institure of Business Administration Sukkur, Jinnah Sindh Medical University, Dawwod University and BBS Benazir Bhutto Shaheed University of Technology and Skill Development Khairpur.

The cabinet also decided to establish a full-fledged university in Mirpurkhas, asking the law department to vet the draft law and present it in the assembly.


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