ISLAMABAD: After about seven years in operation, the only sewage treatment plant (STP) in the federal capital has been closed due to the faulty equipment and the insufficient inflow of sewage.

The Rs2.72 billion plant was installed in Sector I-9 under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), mainly funded by the French government. It was inaugurated in 2009 by the then prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani.

“Due to the faulty equipment coupled with the insufficient inflow, we have to close the plant recently,” said Saeed Badshah, the director of the STP.

He said before its closure the plant was receiving only two million gallons daily (MGD) sewage against its capacity of treating 17 MGDs.

“When the machines developed faults a few months ago, we closed the plant. At that time, there was an inflow of just two MGDs - around 10pc of the total sewage the plant had the capacity to treat,” he said.

The plant was supposed to treat the sewage from over 25 sectors, and supply the treated water to public parks, grounds, greenbelts and agricultural land. Besides, the remaining sewage after being treated was to be disposed of into Nullah Leh.

An official in the CDA said the plant never received sufficient sewage mainly because of the poor quality and improperly-laid network of main trunks from different sectors.

Last year, five MNAs through a joint calling attention notice tried to draw the government attention towards the performance of the STP but to no avail.

According to the notice, the incompetence of the civic agency to run the project efficiently was not only costing the national exchequer millions of rupees every month but also causing health issues among the residents.

Currently, the untreated sewage from different parts of Islamabad is being discharged into Nullah Leh.

Like several other departments of the CDA, the STP was recently devolved to the newly-formed Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI).

“It is a matter of concerns. We spent a huge amount on the project but the plant remained almost nonfunctional,” said Chief Metropolitan Officer Asad Mehboob Kayani. He, however, said the MCI would try to take steps to make it fully functional.

“I was told by the STP director that over Rs50 million were required for the repair and maintenance of the machinery and equipment. But after spending the amount, the plant would still treat about two MGDs of sewage. As a result, we were hesitant to release the amount,” he said, adding there was a need to focus on the upgradation of the network as the plant never received an inflow of the sewage in accordance with the initial estimate.

The CDA official said the project was started without a proper homework such as a comprehensive survey to determine the flow of sewage.

“There are apprehensions that some officials, who were close to the then management, initiated the project to mint money. After the installation of the plant, they lost their interest in the project.”

He said the project was started with a poor planning. “This is a big case of corruption as the project was started without an estimation of the inflow of sewage,” the official said, adding millions of rupees were spent in the name of repair and maintenance of the network.

“In the past, an inquiry was also started but we do not know about its outcome,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2016

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