Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has prepared a strategy to manage an early implementation of the vital Chashma right bank canal lift-cum-gravity scheme, official sources said.
“The province will request the federal government to release funds for the project as promised by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and other federal dignitaries on numerous occasions. It will also seek donors’ support for financing the project. If these initiatives fail, the provincial government would allocate funds from its own resources to initiate the project,” an official quoted the chief minister having told a meeting on the project recently.
“The provincial government had initially entered into an agreement with the World Bank to finance the project. As the implementation of the agreement has been delayed, KP intends to approach other donors,” the official added.
Perhaps owing to a perceived law and order situation, no foreign donor agency or foreign government is ready to invest in the province, though the security situation is not serious particularly in the area where the project is located.
Will the cash-starved province ever be able to apportion the hefty amount from its own resources in case both these initiatives backfired? the official was asked.
“Yes, considering the significance of the CRBC project for the agriculture economy of the province, KP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti is determined to start the project at the earliest, he said. The project, according to him, can help bring a green revolution in the province.
“He recently told a meeting that he would personally look into the matter, would ensure its approval from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) and ask the Federal Government to fulfill its commitments on this count,” the official quoted.
“Otherwise, Mr Hoti has decided to utilise the net hydro profit of Rs110 billion the Water and Power Development Authority owes to the province for the purpose. Initially, the amount was to be spent on power generation schemes but of late, it has been decided to invest it also in irrigation schemes,” he said.
“The cost of the project is escalating with every passing day. It was Rs25 billion in 2006 when the project was first made part of the year’s federal government’s public sector development programme. In 2009-10 it rose to Rs61bn. And according to the latest estimates, it is around Rs77bn,” he said.
“Any further delay will make it even costlier besides inflicting huge losses on the provincial economy as it remains deprived of its benefits.”
The project was first approved in 2005-06 but since then it has been delayed for one reason or the other. First, the central development working party delayed its approval. Now final decision on the project is awaited by the Ecnec.
Initially its approval was promised for the entire project but later only CRBC lift-1 was approved, leaving out the other two lifts.
The project was included in the PSDP in 2005 and subsequent years but funds were not released. Later the federal government promised the project would be approved as a non-PSDP project.
Last fiscal year, the federal government had asked the province to give just one mega project to be included in the PSDP and the KP had decided on the CRBC project and Rs400 million was set aside for the project.
The CRBC at present irrigates around 0.3 million acres in Dera Ismael Khan alone. Through the proposed CRBC lift scheme, to be completed within three years, irrigation water from a feeder canal of Chashma barrage will be pumped into the main canal by a 64 feet lift.
If completed in its present shape, the project would irrigate another 0.28 million acres in Dera Ismael Khan and other districts that remain unutilised for want of irrigation water.
The project was initially planned to irrigate over one million acres in its entire three phases.
Despite having enormous water potential, the province has been unable to fully exploit it for paucity of funds, lack of foreign funding and of physical infrastructure.
KP and Federally-Administered Tribal Area have an area of 25 million acres. Out of this 6.7 million acres are cultivable but irrigated land is only 2.27ma while 4.4ma of land has no water for irrigation.
KP was allotted 8.78 million acres feet (MAF) of water in the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991. Despite the physical infrastructure for around 7.7MAF, only 5.5MAF of water is available to the province. It means 3.28MAF water of its share flows to Punjab or Sindh. This is why the CRBC or other canals and small and big dams are urgently needed.
The KP government had claimed Rs83 billion for the water of its share being used by Sindh and Punjab during discussions for the last National Finance Commission Award.