MUZAFFARGARH: National Accountability Bureau Chairman retired Major Qamar Zaman along with some other officials of the bureau visited the Taunsa Headworks over river Indus, 70km from here, on Thursday.

Though the purpose of the visit was not disclosed as the media and general public were kept at a distance, an investigation into the faulty design of the barrage could not be ruled out.

The Taunsa Barrage was redesigned under World Bank funding in 2004-08. The 2010 flood, however, had exposed faults in its design. As a result, the deluge had badly affected Layyah, Muzaffargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan districts and wreaked a havoc there, damaging life and properties of the public at large. The matter has been under investigation at judicial and official levels since then.

Sources said former chief designer Syed Mansoob Zaidi, former chief engineer and ex-member of irrigation rehabilitation teams, briefed the NAB chairman.

Talking to media before leaving the site, NAB officials said the visit was just a `study tour.’ When pressed, NAB’s Multan GM asked media to come to his office for discussion.

Hydrologist Dr Zulfiqar Ali, who is consultant with the Irrigation Department and a teacher with the UET, Lahore, said the design was flawed as demonstrated during the 2010 flood.

Dr Ali said he had opposed the design in 2005 when the Rs11.2 billion project was taken in hand by Nespak and private contractors. He said he had also conveyed the wrongdoing (in the project) to the judicial inquiry commission made to probe the floods.

According to a report on the Taunsa Barrage Rehabilitation Project by irrigation engineers, the barrage soon after its construction in 1958 ran into multiple problems and some routine and extensive repairs were executed during 1959-62 but problems were not solved. The Punjab government constituted committees of experts in 1966 and 1973 but no specific measures were taken to address the problems that continued to aggravate.

Finally, a feasibility study for the rehabilitation of the barrage was prepared which recommended the rehabilitation and some new works. The World Bank agreed to finance the project in April 2004.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2016