Funding cuts threaten desilting projects

Leave low-lying areas vulnerable during the monsoon season

Qaiser Shirazi May 23, 2024
Nullah Leh flows along a slum in Rawalpindi. PHOTO: ONLINE


The desilting project for Nullah Leh and 15 rain drains in Rawalpindi faces potential setbacks due to funding cuts, threatening to leave the city vulnerable during the monsoon season.

The Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) had initially requested Rs80 million to clean the 10 km stretch of Nullah Leh from Rialto Chowk on Murree Road to New Katarian. However, the project is expected to be short by Rs20 million. Additionally, WASA's request for Rs70 million to clean the rain drains has been reduced by Rs10 million, with the Punjab government allocating only Rs60 million.

Private companies have been invited to submit their bids for the silt cleansing of storm drains by May 30. The contract will be awarded to the lowest bidder.

However, the funds necessary for the silt cleaning of the large drain, Nullah Leh, have yet to be released. The desilting process for Nullah Leh will begin once the funds are made available. With the pre-monsoon season set to start on June 15, there is an urgent need for timely action, officials said.

WASA Managing Director Salim Ashraf stated that the silt cleaning of the drains would commence in the first week of June. The process will involve the use of both heavy and light machinery to ensure thorough cleaning. Ground-level monitoring will also be conducted to oversee the progress. The desilting of Nullah Leh is scheduled to start in June, with expectations that the Punjab government will disburse the required funds next week.

Once the funds are released, tenders will be issued immediately.

Despite these plans, there is concern about the readiness of other areas within Rawalpindi, particularly those under the jurisdiction of the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (RCB) and Chaklala Cantonment Board (CCB).

Neither RCB nor CCB has formulated a silt-cleaning plan for the large rain drains in their respective areas, despite the impending pre-monsoon season.

Sources from the cantonment boards have indicated that a meeting to address this issue is expected to take place next week. Flooding in the slums and low-lying areas of Rawalpindi Cantonment is a recurring problem, exacerbated by insufficient drainage maintenance. Hasan Waqar Cheema, Administrator of the District Council Rawalpindi, has emphasised the need for an immediate plan to clean the rainwater drains in the neighbouring areas of the Rawalpindi district.

The citizens of Rawalpindi, particularly those in flood-prone areas, are left hoping for swift and decisive action from both WASA and the cantonment boards to mitigate the risks posed by the monsoon rains.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2024.



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