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Water pipelines lie abandoned along a link road. — Dawn
Water pipelines lie abandoned along a link road. — Dawn

MURREE: The Punjab Provincial Development Authority has decided to revive a stalled project to supply water to Murree from the river Jhelum at a cost of Rs8 billion, a source in the Public Health Department told Dawn.

An amount of Rs1.18 billion has been set aside for the project in the fiscal year 2017-18.

The project was initiated during the tenure of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) in 2002 in order to facilitate tourists and was later stalled for various reasons.

According to officials in the Rawalpindi district government, the Punjab Development Authority has assigned the project to the Punjab Health Department which will complete it as soon as possible.

Rs1.18bn allocated in fiscal year 2017-18 to supply water to the hill station from Jhelum river

Water will be supplied to Murree via a 30-kilometre-long pipeline and the project is likely to be completed in 18 months after the contract is awarded.

According to officials, after the completion of the project the hill station will be supplied with water for the next century.

Earlier, the Punjab Planning and Development Board had also approved a project for the supply of water to Murree from the Jhelum River at a cost of Rs8.45 billion.

The Neelum-Jhelum Bulk Water Supply Scheme was initiated with an estimated cost of Rs5 billion and the project was stopped by the PML-N government allegedly due to political differences.

When the project was started in 2006, its cost was around Rs2 billion. It was abandoned in 2008 after Rs3 billion had been spent on it. Pipes purchased for the project at a cost of billions of rupees for bringing water from the Jhelum river have been abandoned by the link road along the river and some can no longer be used in the project.

In Sept 2015, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also approved various development schemes for Murree, including the much-delayed bulk water supply project.

He had directed the relevant authorities to complete the scheme as soon as possible.

The project also called for the establishment of a 132KV grid station which will be set up by the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) in Chaprian at a cost of Rs1 billion.

The station will provide power to a filtration plant on the Jhelum River near Kotli Sattian and pump water up to the hill station.

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was elected from Murree, said the project was abandoned because the cost of water under the project would be too high for the average consumer.

He said other schemes would be initiated to overcome the shortage of water in Murree.

Public Health Department Subdivisional Officer Amir Niazi told Dawn on the directions of the government a proposal for the scheme had been sent to the chairman planning and development for a revised PC-1 and that the revised cost was estimated at Rs8 billion.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) local leader Javed Iqbal Satti had also taken the abandonment of the water supply project to Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench which had ordered for the project to be revived.

Mr Satti told Dawn that the cost of the project had increased from Rs4 billion to Rs8 billion due to political differences, leading to a wastage of public funds as the machines and pipes purchased for the project cannot be used again.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2017