SUKKUR: On January 5, 2015, the former president of Pakistan and co-chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari visited Sukkur and laid the foundation stone for two hydel power plants on Rohri and Nara canals. The projects were supposed to be completed in 20 months to add 25 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.
Almost six months on, not a single brick has been laid at the sites. What is even more ironic is that the Sindh government has not allocated any funds for the project in the budget for the new fiscal year.
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The projects were part of the scheme devised by the Sindh government to install small hydel power plants to cope with the prevailing power crisis. Two sites were identified by experts for the first two plants - one at RS-15 of the Rohri canal and the other at RD-26 of the Nara canal. Both plants were to be built at a cumulative cost of $83.4 million and were meant to produce 25 MW of electricity. The power plant at Nara canal was to produce 15 MW of electricity and would cost $47 million and the one at Rohri canal would produce nine MW and would be built at a cost of $36.4 million.
The Nara and Rohri canals are the largest among the seven off-taking canals of the Sukkur barrage. They have falls at four different sites, which, according to experts, are ideal for the generation of hydel power. The Rohri canal has three falls - one at the RD-15, the second is the Tando Masti in Khairpur district while the third is the Phull fall in Shaheed Benazirabad district. The only fall in the Nara canal is at RD-26.
The Rohri canal is designed to carry 16,000 cusecs of water and normally carries 8,000 to 10,000 cusecs of water. Meanwhile, the Nara canal is designed to carry 18,000 cusecs water and normally carries 6,000 to 7,000 cusecs of water. These canals carry water throughout the year, except for the 15 days of closure between January 5 to 20, during which the water supply to the canals is suspended for repairs.
After the foundation stone-laying ceremony on January 5, 2015, Sindh finance minister Murad Ali Shah had said that work on both the projects would start soon and the construction would be completed within 20 months.
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A visit to both the sites, however, revealed that not a single brick has been laid, except for a police picket that has been set up at RD-15 of the Rohri canal - probably to save the foundation stone from being stolen by opportunists.
Sukkur Barrage chief engineer Wali Mohammad Naich did not attend the phone despite repeated attempts to contact him. The former chief engineer, Ahmed Junaid Memon, who held the charge at the time the foundation stone was laid, said that the irrigation department had nothing to do with the project. "We have provided the data to the relevant ministry and now it is their job to carry out the work," he said.
The finance minister, too, was not available for comments.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2015.
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