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KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that the federal government is creating ‘unnecessary’ hurdles to delay the Rs276 billion Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project, which has a 43.2 kilometre-long route and ordered the Sindh transport minister to restart the anti-encroachment drive to clear the KCR route.

Presiding over a meeting on the KCR on Wednesday at CM House, the chief minister said the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) had given approval to the project, but in a post-CDWP meeting a member raised ‘unnecessary’ objections.

Expressing his displeasure over the objection, the chief minister said these were tactics to keep the KCR out of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Recalling that he had been assured by the federal government that the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting would be convened shortly, so far no such meeting had been convened, he said.

He directed Sindh Transport Minister Syed Nasir Shah to talk to the federal railways minister. “If their divisional superintendent or other officers cannot look after right of way of KCR then its possession may be handed over to the Sindh government,” he said.

The meeting was attended by Transport and Information Minister Syed Nasir Shah, chairman of planning and development Mohammad Waseem, transport secretary Raheem Soomro and other officers concerned.

When the chief minister was told that the anti-encroachment operation launched to clear the right of way of KCR had been stopped after the Karachi divisional superintendent of Railways’ sent a letter to the deputy commissioner of District Central to halt the operation as he could not look after the cleared right of way, the chief minister directed Syed Nasir Shah to restart the anti-encroachment operation on the KCR route.

“I am issuing directives to the commissioner of Karachi and the police to vacate the route,” he said and added, “I am committed with the people of Karachi that the work on KCR project would start by the end of this year so I cannot back out from my commitment.

“I would not allow any delaying tactics. I am also going to write a letter to Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to urge him to call an ECNEC meeting to approve the KCR project and would also ask him to stop the CDWP member(s) from striding over the federal minister’s decisions by raising unrealistic objections,” he said.

Solar energy tube wells

Earlier, presiding over a joint meeting of irrigation and agriculture departments at CM House, the chief minister said water shortage had affected agriculture sector in the province, therefore his government had embarked upon a plan to provide solar energy tube wells to small growers to help them improve and strengthen agro economy.

It was stated in the meeting that the Sindh government had launched 11 schemes of installation of solar energy tube wells and pumping stations through three different departments at a cost of Rs7.8bn against which Rs2,630.505m was utilised up to June, 2017.

The government allocated Rs2,623.858m for the new financial year.

The solar schemes of the agriculture department include Rs100m solar dehydration plant on public-private partnership in Khairpur and Rs802m for solar water pumps/tube wells on subsidised rates for farmers all over Sindh.

The chief minister said that it was an important scheme which cost Rs1,000m in which the Sindh government’s share was Rs802m while farmers would share Rs198m.

Out of the total cost of Rs2,087.110m on the solar schemes, so far Rs859.110m has been utilised while this year Rs200m is allocated for the purpose.

The chief minister said that the solar schemes should be executed by one agency and as such the task may be given to the agriculture or the irrigation department.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2017