ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday regretted that the commitment of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to building new water reservoirs in the country was fast receding.

The observation came during an exchange of words with Finance Minister Asad Umar, who was summoned by a three-judge SC bench headed by the CJP to the hearing of a case relating to the construction of the Nai Gaj dam in Dadu district of Sindh.

The SC had earlier ordered the federal government to make up its mind about the release of funds for the construction of the Nai Gaj dam after the apex court was told that the project had been shelved after Rs10 billion had been spent on it.

SC directs finance minister to hold Ecnec meeting this month and take decision about construction of Nai Gaj dam

A petition moved through senior counsel Rasheed A. Razvi highlighted the snags that had hit the construction of the dam.

The finance minister was summoned by the court to explain why no decision had so far been taken

by the Executive Com­mittee of the Economic Coordination Committee (Ecnec) on the construction of the Nai Gaj dam.

Earlier the court was assured that the final decision to this effect would be made by Jan 10. When the case was taken up in the morning, the court was told that the Ecnec meeting had not been held. At this the CJP expressed his disappointment and regretted that the matter would be stuck again.

Additional Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, however, told the court that the minister was busy in a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). The court sent a message to the minister to appear in person before it in the afternoon.

When Mr Umar appeared before the court in the afternoon, the CJP while pointing towards him observed that he did not know about the minister’s personal commitment, but the government seemed not serious about building new water reservoirs.

The government should have taken advantage of the initiative the SC had taken for construction of dams and water resources, he said and cited how SC judges sat till midnight on a daily basis to complete the task of planning the construction of new dams in the country.

Mr Umar told the court that the government was fully committed to construction of new dams in the country. He, however, said that Ecnec had so far not received any summary about decisions taken by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) on the Nai Gaj dam’s construction.

Still, the minister added, he had issued verbal instructions for calling a meeting of Ecnec on Jan 25 for which notices had been issued to departments concerned.

The CJP regretted that the situation reflected a lack of coordination among government departments despite the fact that the court had been continuously issuing directions to the government in this regard.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan recalled that the court was assured on Jan 7 that the Ecnec meeting would be held on Jan 10.

The court issued directions for holding the Ecnec meeting from Jan 25 to 27 and informing it about the decision.

At the end, Mr Umar praised CJP Nisar’s efforts for construction of dams in the country.

Talking to reporters later, the finance minister said that the mini-budget to be presented on Jan 23 would not increase taxes. He claimed that the mini-budget would help boost the country’s exports and would result in increasing the flow of investment and business activities.

Hill torrent

Nai Gaj is a hill torrent that emanates from Khuzdar district of Balochistan and enters the Manchhar lake after passing through the plains of Kutch. The Nai Gaj area remains dry for eight months and gets water in the remaining four months, paricularly during the monsoon. Once the Manchhar lake attains its peak level and becomes unable to receive water in monsoon season, water flows from Nai Gaj devastate flood-protection bunds and inundate agricultural lands.

After inundating agricultural lands damaging crops and houses, the monsoon water falls into the sea and, as such, a huge amount of water is wasted, the petition says.

The Nai Gaj dam will not only facilitate continuous flow of freshwater to Manchhar lake thus improving its ecology, but will also serve as a lifeline for the people of this mountainous region in Dadu district with the potential of improving their socio-economic conditions.

The petition highlights that the construction of the dam is blocking the inflow of a huge quantity of freshwater to Manchhar lake. For improving the situation, Wapda has proposed 50 cusecs of continued piped water supply to the lake from the dam, it adds.

The petition seeks a directive for the federal government to urgently provide funds for completion of the project as well as consider increasing up to 100 cusecs freshwater flows from the dam to Manchhar lake.

The long-term measures to address the issue of contamination of water of Manchhar lake include the completion of RBOD-I, II, III and Nai Gaj dam projects, the petition argues, adding that through completion of RBOD projects, the drainage effluent of Sindh and Balochistan will be disposed of properly instead of being released into the Manchhar lake, thus the ecology of the lake will also improve.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019