KARACHI: The Sindh government and the World Bank have agreed to rehabilitate and renovate the old city areas from Pakistan Chowk to Empress Market and make the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) a self-sufficient organisation.

The city rehabilitation project, which was conceived in August last year during a meeting between Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and World Bank’s Country Director Patchamuthu Illangovan, got the green signal on Wednesday when the latter called on the former at the CM House, it is reliably learnt.

Sources privy to the meeting told Dawn that work on the rehabilitation project was likely to begin during the next financial year for which the World Bank had agreed to arrange financial assistance of $80 million.

The rehabilitation work includes removing encroachments from the area, renovating old landmark buildings, replacing old water and sewerage lines with new ones, developing parks and rebuilding roads and installing new poles for street lights to give it a beautiful look like the renovated KPT area.

####KWSB to be made self-sufficient organisation

Besides rehabilitation of old city areas, according to the sources, the two sides also discussed the Sindh neighbourhood project, establishment of solar power stations in different districts of the province, the Sindh nutrition programme and major reforms in the KWSB to make it a self-sufficient organisation.

Under the neighbourhood programme, certain rural areas will also be developed, including villages in Malir within the vicinity of old areas, by laying water pipelines up to Dhabeji, improving infrastructure so that local cultivators could have access to markets for their vegetables and fruits without the help of middlemen.

The sources said the KWSB reforms included improving billing, water distribution system and pumping stations. They said that at present the Sindh government provided the KWSB Rs40 million per month to pay its electricity bills, which could only be overcome by installing solar energy power plants.

In order to improve collection of water bills and water distribution, it was decided to acquire services of the private sector for enlisting all those who had water connection and preventing water theft from direct lines.

According to the sources, the issue of over-employment in the water board also came under discussion. The organisation has about 9,000 employees on its payroll, instead of the required 4,500.

It was decided that there would be no further employment and only seats falling vacant after retirement of employees would be filled. The chief minister, according to the sources, informed the WB official that the Sukkur Barrage was one of the unique barrages in the world but now it had completed its life. “We know that construction of such a state-of-the-art barrage is ... difficult ... therefore, a consensus has been developed to rehabilitate the barrage,” he said.

The chief minister and Mr Illangovan agreed to seek the help of the same British firm that had constructed the Sukkur Barrage, for rehabilitation. Mr Illangovan said he would also invite some independent experts to seek second opinion.

They decided to have another meeting in Islamabad soon to further discuss and review these projects.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2017