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ISLAMABAD: Caught between the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI), staff at Simly Dam have threatened to strike from next month if they do not receive their salaries.

Built over Soan River, Simly Dam is the main source of water for the capital and a key barrier to contain flooding in the river and its tributaries.

The operation of Simly Dam, including the inspection and maintenance of its structure, spillways, motors and water gates, and the mechanics that operate the spillways and catchments, have been outsourced to the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) since the dam was made in 1982.

Like Rawal Dam, Simly Dam was also built by Wapda. However, Rawal Dam comes under the Punjab Irrigation Department, which has several similar installations.

“The Punjab Irrigation Department has the engineering expertise to operate the dam and meet the requirements of repair and maintenance of its structures,” a Wapda official explained. “The CDA has no such engineering expertise to maintain a dam, therefore Wapda’s services were hired by the CDA since Simly Dam’s inception.”

Dam operations were outsourced to Wapda since its inception, but with water devolved to MCI service charges have not been paid since March 2018

The situation has taken a turn after the establishment of the MCI in 2015, to which municipal services were transferred. The water sector is now the responsibility of the MCI.

“Earlier, the CDA chairman and the mayor of Islamabad – the head of the MCI – were the same person, therefore service charges were being paid. But now, since a new CDA chairman has been appointed, Wapda’s service charges have been stopped since March 2018,” the official said.

To apprise the mayor of the situation, the Wapda central general manager wrote to the MCI in January this year explaining that the service contract could be terminated in charges are not paid.

Wapda’s annual service charge is between Rs15 million and Rs17.5m, including the salaries of around 22 technical and non-technical officials.

Wapda has been paying its employees posted at Simly Dam from a reserve fund for the project, from saving from previous CDA payments.

Wapdainformed the mayor of the situation in a meeting on May 16, but the mayor asked Wapda to seek support from the CDA.

“The mayor maintains that there are no financial rules for the MCI to pay for such services, and suggested that Wapda seek payment from the CDA as long as the financial rules are not notified by the Ministry of Interior,” another Wapda official said.

The official added that senior CDA officers maintain that the MCI should pay the service charges, and payments will be made from that fund.

“The lack of trust and the political tussle between the two entities has delayed the release of service charges to Wapda. As a result, many staff have already asked for repatriation to Wapda from the Simly Dam project, as they have been informed from the head office that they will not be paid their salaries for the month of June,” the official said.

There are six low-grade employees at technical posts at the dam who record the water level manually, and around 100 instruments need constant monitoring. In addition, pre-monsoon rainfall is expected from June 15.

A senior MCI official said that efforts are being made to have financial rules formulated as soon as possible, and Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz is working on this.

The mayor could not be reached for comment.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2019