Schemes touted for Hyd only on paper?

Toxic waste disposal, sewerage, construction of roads, development works have hit repeated snags

Z Ali June 18, 2021


Stopping the release of the toxic industrial effluent in freshwater canals passing through Hyderabad from the city's SITE Area still seems to be only a distant possibility despite the allocation of Rs39.14 million in the upcoming provincial budget for this purpose. Other projects too face delays despite funds allocated for their completion in past and upcoming budgets.

In 2017 the Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) launched a crackdown on industries discharging untreated effluent, mainly in Phuleli canal.

Three years ago, the Supreme Court-mandated Commission on Water and Sanitation gave three months to industries in Hyderabad's SITE Area to install in-house effluent treatment plants. Subsequently, a committee was formed under water expert, Dr Ahsan Siddiqui, to determine the nature of industries and specifications for the in-house plants.

The committee, however, helped the industries buy time and lobby with the provincial government to construct a combined effluent treatment plant (CEPT) from its own funds for the SITE Area. Many years have passed but neither the actions of SEPA nor the orders of the water commission could stop the release of poisonous chemicals into the canal, which provides drinking and irrigation water for millions of people.

In its budget for the fiscal year 2021-22, the Sindh government has kept Rs39.14 million as funds for the survey and feasibility study for construction of a combined effluent treatment plant in Hyderabad SITE Area. The plant would have a capacity of three million gallons per day (MGD). However, the feasibility, which is slated for completion after two years by June 2023, has not been approved so far.

A similar feasibility, at the cost of Rs31.26 million, has also been cited in the budget for the SITE Area in Sukkur with a two MGD capacity. After the feasibility study, many more years will be required for the construction phase.

Moreover, a CEPT, built at Kotri SITE area of Jamshoro district in 2014, is far from being perfectly operational.

Sewerage project

Phase II of the greater sewerage project for Qasimabad taluka of Hyderabad, which was scheduled to be completed by December 2014, will receive the final part of the stalled funds in the upcoming fiscal year.

A budget of Rs71.5 million has been set aside for the project, which had already received piecemeal releases of Rs1.21 billion over the past nine years.

Phase III of the same project, costing over Rs1.9 billion, will get Rs300 million in the next financial year with a carry forward fund of Rs838.24 to be released in the coming years.

Under the project, sewerage of the entire Qasimabad taluka will be channelled to two sewage treatment plants and the discharge of wastewater in freshwater distributary Wadu Wah will be stopped.

Treatment plant

Meanwhile, the Sindh government will provide Rs32.5 million for the ongoing rehabilitation work of the Northern Sewage Treatment Plant in Hyderabad, which was constructed around 15 years ago, but remains dysfunctional. A sum of Rs67.5 million will be spent on the plant, which is spread over 142 acres and is equipped with the stated capacity of treatment of eight MGD by June 30, 2021.

Interestingly, a meeting of the Hyderabad Development Authority's governing body proposed shutting the plant down permanently this past March. "The plant behind the Isra University Hospital was constructed when the area was not inhabited," HDA Director General Ghulam Muhammad Qaimkhani observed in a report.

"The plant within the residential area is causing various diseases and becoming a health risk," he added. The authority wants to relocate the plant near the Gillan embankment of the Indus River and the land utilisation department has been requested to provide property. It was built at the cost of Rs400 million.

Road infrastructure

Meanwhile, the Hyderabad-Mirpurkhas road, stretching 67 kilometres, was inaugurated in 2012. Almost nine years have passed but the construction of a bypass road for dual carriageway in Tando Jam town of Hyderabad has not been completed. The Sindh government has released over Rs1 billion for the bypass out of the total cost which is slightly above Rs2 billion.

However, only Rs3 million have been earmarked for the project in the next year, while the rest of the allocation has been thrown forward. Likewise, only Rs3 million will be spent on land acquisition which has already consumed Rs169 million and requires another Rs433 million further expenditure.

The allocation to turn the 33-kilometre-long Hyderabad-Tando Muhammad Khan into a dual carriageway has also been reduced to Rs70 million for the next fiscal. The project has so far cost Rs2.62 billion and still requires Rs1.85 billion.

However, the budget earmarked hundreds of millions of rupees for construction and repair of many roads and streets in Hyderabad.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 18h, 2021.