WORK is in full swing at the site of the Baizai irrigation project, a joint venture of the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments.
While delayed release and inadequate funds had stalled progress of the project in its initial stages, the situation has improved now. Over 50 per cent of the development work of this project in parts of Mardan and Malakand Agency has been completed so far.
The project originally scheduled for completion this year will now be commissioned by June 2013, official sources said.
There were fears amongst locals and some officials that the federal government might be reluctant to fund the project in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) post-devolution but it had never been more enthusiastic than now, the sources said.
“We have no funding problem at present. Both the federal and provincial governments, who had agreed to provide 80 and 20 per cent of the project finances, are fulfilling their obligations. We are hopeful the project would get the rest of around Rs1300-1400 million for the coming year to continue the work smoothly,” they said.
“Though the feasibility study of the BIS was conducted in 2003 and the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) had approved the project in August 2006, it was CM Hoti who gave it a practical shape.
He not only released the provincial share in time but remained instrumental in getting the fund released by the federal government without any loss of time,” they added.
Though the project’s cost was initially estimated at Rs1.59 billion, it was raised to Rs1.81bn in 2008 for delay in land acquisition and some other constraints. But Ecnec again approved it at a reduced cost of Rs1.8bn in March 2009.
Owing to increase in the composite schedule rates and delayed release of funds and other reasons, the cost of the project escalated to around Rs3.3bn, according to the officials. The upper Swat canal that irrigates around 0.28mn acres in Malakand, Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera and Swabi districts flows nearby. The height of Baizai area vis-à-vis the canal bed, however, makes irrigation impossible from it.
But the Malakand-111 hydropower project, the destined source of water for BIS, has made it possible to irrigate the fields through gravity flow at the new canal.
The BIS was originally conceived to be developed as a lift irrigation scheme in an earlier report but the concept was abandoned due to technical problems and lack of interest by donor agencies.
The BIS besides having a 40km-long main canal and 94km-long headwork would have 32 distributaries and minors, five siphons, three tunnels, 12 aqueducts, 750 meter-long conduit, 11 supper passages and 34 drainage troughs.
The construction of main channel is in full swing and is expected to be ready by 2012.
The BIS was to start from Wartair Dobandi in Malakand Agency and culminate at Matta Katlang in Mardan. It would irrigate 25,000 acres in all — 20,000 acres of the fertile but rain-fed area in Mardan and 5,000 of Malakand Agency.
Around 70-80 per cent families in the project area depend for their livelihood on farming. “Hopefully, farming would no more remain subsistence farming. Farmers would grow more crops and enjoy increase in their incomes,” said a local farmer Manzur.
The east Baizai area borders the volatile Swat and Buner districts and Malakand Agency, and has thousands of acres of rain-fed land that grows only 7,774 metric tons of different crops per year. With the completion of BIS, the annual crop production in the area is expected to surge to 233,000 metric tons. An estimated Rs8.7 million per annum would also be collected in Abiana.