Islamabad’s rural areas facing neglect

Only Rs1.008 billion of Rs4.3 billion allocated for improvement of rural areas around Islamabad have been released.

Zahid Gishkori July 24, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Only Rs1.008 billion of the Rs4.3 billion allocated for improvement of rural areas around Islamabad back in 2006 have been released to date. The Planning Commission of Pakistan (PCP), a government institution that collaborates with Ministry of Finance and prepares plans for social and economic development, had announced Islamabad Development Project, a four-year plan, in 2006 for the

uplift of the rural areas surrounding the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

The commission had approved Rs4.3 billion for the rural areas. Out of these, Rs282.24 million had been allocated for health, Rs3149.6 million for education, Rs128.41 million for gas supply and Rs740 million had been allocated for rural development.

Director Agriculture ICT Rana Akbar Hayat told The Express Tribune that PCP had failed to release any funds in 2009-2010 for the agricultural welfare of the of the rural areas in ICT. He added that more than 0.4 million acres of land is cultivated in different areas in Islamabad Capital Territory including Simly Dam, Chak Shahzad, Ali Pur Frash, Koral Chowk, Khana Pul, Zone V, Zone J and K, Korang, Shakrial, CDR Town, Shahzad Town and River Garden Bani Gala, among other areas.

Hayat added that the crops of the above-mentioned areas were suffering due to lack of water. Making matters worse for these farmers is the fact that no subsidies are offered to them by the government. While ICT has been trying to help the farmers, the dearth of funds for the past three years has “severely hampered” their efforts, he added.

Assistant Director Rural Government ICT Hasan Abbas also expressed his dissatisfaction over the irregular release of funds. He added that PCP had allocated Rs351 million under the Islamabad Development Project budget for 2009-2010 but only released Rs278 million.

The Rural Development Department of ICT had planned 126 new development schemes at an estimated cost of Rs1.3 billion between 2006 and 2010. Most of these projects were related to reconstruction and rehabilitation of old roads in rural areas, pavements of streets and provision of water supply schemes in the rural areas. However most of the projects were not completed due to lack of funds, Assistant Director Abbas told The Express Tribune.

Moreover the entire sum of Rs128.41 million allocated for gas supply projects in the rural areas has yet to be released by the PCP, Abbas said.

District Health Officer ICT Dr Ameerzada Khan said that only Rs8 million of the  Rs282 million allocated for health had been released in the past four years. There are more than 200 hospitals and dispensaries in the rural areas catering to about 0.7 million people.

Similarly, Chairperson of Federal Directorate of Education Dr Shaheen Ali Khan said that “not a single penny” of the Rs3.1 billion allocated for rural education had been released to date.

PCP Spokesperson Asif Sheikh said that the commission had been unable to release the allocated funds due to “financial crunch”.  He explained: “How can we release the funds for the project when the government did not release the money allocated to PCP?”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2010.


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