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Divert dam fund collections to solve Balochistan’s water crisis, demands Senate body

ISLAMABAD: A Senate Panel on Thursday demanded Rs9 billion collected for construction of multi-billion dollar Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams to be diverted for development of a series of small dams in Balochistan to support agriculture and livestock sectors and create job opportunities.

A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning, Development, and Reforms presided over by Senator Agha Shahzaib Durrani also asked the federal government to increase the number of small and medium dams in Balochistan from 100 to 500.

The senators from Balochistan pleaded that Diamer-Bhasha dam worth over Rs1.4 trillion and Rs310bn Mohmand dam could not be built with just Rs7-8 billion collected through fund-raising campaigns but the amount could be used to construct many small and medium capacity dams in Balochistan and address its water challenges to a great extent.

“You cannot build a large dam with Rs7-8bn donated by the people but it can make a big contribution towards addressing water challenges in Balochistan”, said Senator Usman Kakar. Other senators from the province supported his demand and asked the Planning Commission to take up the matter at the relevant forums.

It was explained that about Rs9.2bn had so far been collected through donations on the fundraising campaigns of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The meeting was informed that the construction of 100 small dams in Balochistan involved five packages. In the first package (2008-2013) 20 dams were completed at a cost of Rs2.4bn, while in the second package (2013-18), 22 out of 26 days have been completed at a cost of Rs4.4bn whereas in the third package 20 more dams are scheduled to be completed by 2020 at a cost of Rs7.6bn. In the fourth and fifth packages, 23 and 11 days respectively, would be built by 2026.

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The meeting was further informed that the total irrigated area of 66 dams — built under the first three packages — was 2,154 million acres whereas total storage capacity of these dams was around 2,467m acre-feet.

The committee was informed that the release of funds for the small dams was very slow. The committee asked the planning ministry to consider increasing the number of small dams in Balochistan from the current 100 dams to 500 dams in five years.

Senator Mir Kabeer said that there used to be 309 Karaizes — an indigenous method of irrigation — in Balochistan but now only one was functional. He said that the solution of Balochistan water crises lied in the construction of small and medium-sized dams.

Agha Shahzaib Durrani said Balochistan neither had canal system nor underground resources of water, therefore, the number of small dams across the province must be increased. The committee also recommended the planning ministry to immediately release the required Rs1.2bn for building the remaining of the 100 small dams’ project.

‘NAB to probe Gwadar desalination plant’
The committee referred an inquiry report of the Ministry of Planning regarding dysfunctional desalination plant at Gwadar to National Accountability Bureau for further inquiry. The report was prepared by the planning ministry on the recommendation of the Senate committee.

The meeting was informed that the ministry had dispatched a team to Gwadar to ascertain the current status of the desalination plant and to inquire the concerned stakeholders responsible for building and maintaining the plant. The report said the plant was totally shut down and not filtering a single drop of water.

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Senator Kauda Babar said billions were spent on the project but due to the negligence of concerned authorities, the plant could not get functional. He said the local people had to spend thousands of rupees daily for purchasing water from tankers for their daily use. He deplored that authorities were talking about developing Gwadar into an international business hub but basic facilities were still missing there.

Senator Ahmad Khan said Descon Engineering was nominated by the federal government for Rs309bn Mohmand Hydro project even though it was disqualified by the government of Baluchistan for a small dam project called Garuk Dam located in Kharan with an estimated cost of only Rs10bn.

An official of the Balochistan government, however, explained that it was a joint venture of National Logistic Cell and Descon and the later was disqualified because of the former. Under Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules, if one company in a joint venture is disqualified it means both will stand disqualified. Since the case is sub judice, therefore, it cannot be discussed in detail, he added.

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