Senate panel resents inclusion of 44 unapproved projects in PSDP – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Amid criticism from a Senate committee about the inclusion of 44 unapproved projects in the development program, the federal government promised on Friday to launch a $ 3 billion investment in Karachi to improve its systems and supply infrastructure of water and sewer.

The president of the Standing Committee on Planning and Development of the Senate, Agha Shahzaib Durrani (PML-N) and the Leader of the House in the Senate, Shibli Faraz (PTI), unanimously expressed concern about the fact that a large number of projects Unapproved ones have been included in the program development in violation of prudent development rules and procedures.

Senator Durrani expressed reservations about the inclusion of 44 unapproved schemes that had not appeared in the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) documents submitted to the Senate and the standing committee.

The committee, during its meetings on budget proposals, made sure that no new projects of provincial domain or unapproved projects would be included in the PSDP, he said. Such inclusion of projects in the PSDP was "unconstitutional," he added.

The committee also noted that it had ensured that PSDP projects were not going to be funded that would actually be funded under the Sustainable Development Goals and, at the same time, no Senate recommendation had been received at any time for such schemes. Despite all these guarantees, 44 unapproved projects were included in the new PSDP book after the budget, which was never submitted to the Senate.

Center promises to invest $ 3 billion in Karachi projects

Even the leader of the Faraz Chamber also expressed concern about the procedure adopted for the finalization of the schemes.

The panel constituted a subcommittee composed of Senators Mir Kabeer Mohammad Shahi, Rukhsana Zuberi and Hidayatullah to investigate this matter.

Karachi Projects

During a discussion about the Karachi Bulk Water Supply Project (K-IV), Planning Minister Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar said the project faced serious design flaws and its estimated cost had increased from Rs26bn to more than Rs130bn . He said the largest city in the country required approximately 1.2 billion gallons per day (MGD) of water, but that its current supplies were no more than 500MGD, leaving a deficit of 700MGD.

He said one of the reasons behind the delay and the escalation of costs was that the provincial government had not provided its share of the financing of the project.

The minister said the government had committed to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to obtain assistance on the project. He added that he had taken a World Bank team to Karachi a few days ago for this purpose.

He said the government had prioritized Karachi's water supply, sewerage and infrastructure and sanitation development and that he would soon invest about $ 3 billion in these areas. He said that the authorities involved would have to adequately charge and recover the water supply costs of consumers because the free water supply could not be possible for an urban center.

The committee was informed about failures in the alignment of the project proposed by the consultants and the challenges they face in water transmission and distribution channels. Bakhtyar said he had a meeting with the Sindh government a few days ago and that the issue was discussed extensively. He said that in addition to the realignment of the K-IV, K-I, K-II, K-III projects they also needed to be optimized. He said that the National Engineering Service of Pakistan (Nespak) had presented the initial results of the K-IV design review and had proposed design improvements after the completion of a technical study conducted at the end of September 2019.

Nespak will present a complete feasibility study of the technically viable and economically viable solution of the K-IV project to the Sindh government in two months, Bakhtyar said. The Joint Technical Review Committee will review and evaluate the Nespak report.

The committee chair stressed the need to give due consideration to the type of consultants hired for such projects, as they often contributed to the escalation of costs and extended deadlines. The committee also noted that the responsibility lay with the planning ministry that examined all projects and had to have people responsible for this work.

The committee ordered the planning ministry to investigate delays and irregularities in the K-IV project and penalize the responsible persons.

The committee urged the Alternative Energy Development Board to share the draft of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy 2019 with him to seek his input and also requested an extensive briefing on what incentives were being provided to investors in the energy sector. renewable energy and how the new policy would be different from the existing one.

The leader of the Chamber, Faraz, said the design discourages renewable energy and that many people who came to invest in this sector were leaving. He said investors had to be incentivized, but there was a strong and active lobby that did not want their businesses to be affected.

On the extensive amounts that are paid as a subsidy to the tubular wells in Balochistan, the committee noted that there should be a permanent solution for this by solarizing the tubular wells or in some other way.

The planning minister said that the ministry of power would have to take the initiative in this regard and that the ministries of finance and planning would help the former.

It was decided to convene a joint meeting of the federal ministries of power and planning and the Balochistan government to discuss the matter.

The committee was informed that the feasibility study on the situation of the water table in Balochistan will be completed in March 2020 and then a work plan will be formulated.

It was reported that Gwadar's water demand was 7.48 MGD, but the supply was no more than 2.5 MGD and that with the completion of the Shadi Kour dam transmission line, the city would obtain an additional 5 MGD of water. However, the distribution network is not yet in place.

Posted in Dawn, September 7, 2019



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