Prosperity delayed : Factors delaying Kachhi Canal project explained

Project to irrigate 713,000 acres of land and bring drinking water to 2m people

Azam Khan July 20, 2015
Project to irrigate 713,000 acres of land and bring drinking water to 2m people. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Kachhi Canal “Green Revolution” Project in Balochistan aims to provide irrigation water to 713,000 acres of land and drinking water to two million people. People facing impediments mainly because of the law and order situation, law enforcing agencies restrictions, and shortage of funds shall benefit from this project, Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) officials told a parliamentary panel last week.

Additionally, inadequate PSDP funding is one of the major causes affecting the pace of work on the project. The unprecedented hill torrent flood having discharge of more than 150,000 cusecs during floods 2006, 2007 and 2008, super flood 2010 and 2012 adversely affected developmental work. The limited working hours and adverse law and order situation in the tribal areas of districts Rajanpur (Punjab) and Dera Bugti (Balochistan) compounded the problem.

Kachhi Canal off-takes from Taunsa Barrage on Indus River and passes through districts Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur in Punjab and then meanders through districts Dera Bugti, Naseerabad, Bolan and Jhal Magsi in Balochistan, the province in which the project’s command area lies.

The work on the project has to be completed in three phases. Around Rs10 billion is the estimated budget for the second phase and approximately Rs18 billion for the third phase.

In a presentation to the NA Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Reforms headed by MNA Abdul Majeed Khan, officials disclosed factors impeding the progress. They declared that the Pakistan Rangers Punjab, Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan and administrative authority of Balochistan are not allowing execution at night.

The pouring of concrete during high temperature is not sustainable hence progress is affected. There was also a delay in deployment of additional troops by Pakistan Rangers Punjab and FC for ongoing works. The completion of the Hill Torrent Management by the Irrigation Department by the Punjab government was also cited as a factor for impediment.

As a ‘way forward,’ officials suggested the early deployment of additional troops by Pakistan Rangers Punjab. It was also recommended that the FC should beef up security cover for ongoing contracts. Similarly they sought permission from Pakistan Rangers Punjab and Frontier Corps Balochistan for 16 hours execution of work in two shifts/night hours.

To speed up work they also suggested a schedule for completion of command area development works in Dera Bugti and requisition of water by the Balochistan government. Completion of Hill Torrent Management works in district DG Khan and Rajanpur by Irrigation Department Punjab was also recommended

Wapda Chairman Zafar Mahmood on the occasion of contract awarding ceremony of the Kachhi Canal Project (Phase-1), termed it a mega project of vital importance. He said the project would result in prosperity in the province.

The Kachhi Canal project was conceived by Baloch leaders and consequently the experts had planned the project for finances from the federal government, with or without foreign aid. The main idea was to irrigate vast tracts of Kachhi Plains.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.