ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda said on Wednesday the federal government had increased water use charges for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) from 25 paisa per unit to Rs1.10 per unit to bring it on a par with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
This would entail about Rs11 billion additional revenues to the AJK government and make it revenue-surplus, he said, adding AJK was earlier getting Rs70 million per year on account of water use charges on the Mangla Dam.
The minister said the increased rates would also apply to power generation from the Mangla Dam, Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project and hydropower projects to be undertaken in future.
He said the previous government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had increased net hydel profit for KP and Punjab in 2016, but the same treatment was not accorded to AJK.
“We have corrected that injustice even though AJK currently has the PML-N government because we believe it is the right of the people of AJK and our party thinks above party politics,” Mr Vawda said. Within the shortest span of time, he said, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had decided to bring AJK on a par with provinces.
Praising the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project completed in April last year, the minister said it was generating three per cent more power than its capacity, adding the capacity utilisation of any project seldom went beyond 70-80pc. He said the Neelum-Jhelum project would be earning Rs50 billion per year, starting this year.
Asked about water shortage in Sindh and shutter-down strikes in some rural districts of the province, he replied: “I would not comment on the issue as after the 18th Amendment it is a provincial matter and the federal government has no role on such issues.”
Nevertheless, he said, he had also received some complaints about theft of water from the Hub Dam that provided water supply to Karachi and had taken up the matter with the Sindh chief minister. He said some diversion lines had been built and water was being stolen there.
The minister said he would be visiting the area next week to confirm the complaints.
On illegal hydrants in Sindh, he said his ministry had compiled a list of illegal hydrants and had raised the issue with the provincial government. Mr Vawda said the chief minister of Sindh had promised to arrange joint raids on illegal hydrants and if the chief minister was not available he would himself conduct surprise raids.
Replying to a question on disputes over water-related issues feared by the people of Azad Kashmir in the wake of proposed construction of 1110mw Kohala hydropower project on the River Jhelum, the minister said some of the reservations of the local people were genuine and would have to be addressed. He acknowledged that the company involved in the design of the project had missed out certain critical things, but said the redesigning of the project was not possible and some changes would be made to address environmental issues.
Regarding the recent visit of a Pakistan Indus Water Commission delegation to India, the minister said unexpectedly it was a successful visit that allowed the Pakistani team to inspect the dam sites in a cooperative manner.
About the super flood warning, the minister said after the 18th Amendment, it was a provincial subject and the federal government’s responsibility was only to inform the provinces about the situation. Letters had been sent to the provincial stakeholders, he added. “The federal ministry of water resources has fulfilled its responsibility by making preparations. Now it is up to the provinces to take precautionary measures,” he said.
He said there were some good things in the 18th Amendment but some others were not good which needed to be corrected because it was a man-made law which should keep pace with ground situations.
Regarding the Mohmand dam, the minister said preliminary work had been started on the project and the groundbreaking would be held on the availability of the prime minister, who would be travelling abroad over the next few days.
Responding to a question on the World Bank demand for increase in water use charges (Abyana), the minister said due diligence was being given to the issue, and though no conclusion had been reached he believed appropriate pricing was necessary to discourage waste of water.
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2019