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KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Saturday said that “almost all over Sindh” the groundwater had turned contaminated, thus, “I am in constant touch with experts and donor agencies to stem the rot”.

Mr Shah said his government was improving water supply and drainage schemes to the rural areas of Sindh and simultaneously another plan was in the works to refresh and revive groundwater quality.

“The biggest reservoir of contaminated water has accumulated in the Manchhar Lake and we are working on a plan with the World Bank and European donors and expert agencies to wash and refresh the Manchhar Lake to revive its past glory,” he said while presiding over several meetings to finalise the government’s uplift portfolio for the next financial year.

‘We are working on a plan with the World Bank and European donors to wash and refresh Manchhar Lake’

The public health engineering department meeting was attended by Minister for Local Government Saeed Ghani, P&D chairperson Naheed Shah, PHE secretary Roshan Shaikh, local government secretary Khalid Hyder Shah, special secretary for finance Asif Jahangir, member (services) P&D Fatah Tunio, chief engineer of the PHE department and others. CM Shah said groundwater across Sindh, except for a few districts, used to be sweet and fresh but with the passage of time its quality had deteriorated, as a result the government had to switch over to reverse osmosis plants to meet the need of drinking water in rural areas.

“The actual solution of the problem lies in adopting a scientific approach for improving the quality of groundwater for which I am working with the World Bank and other agencies to launch a comprehensive plan to refresh and revive the aquifers,” he said.

Mr Shah said the PHE department was important in terms of its services of efficient water supply and drainage schemes in the rural areas.

“I want the department [to] complete its ongoing schemes to benefit people and plan for more schemes in other rural regions,” he said.

Schemes to be completed

Roshan Shaikh said 169 new schemes, with 96 ongoing schemes, would be completed with an estimated cost of Rs26.7 billion. They included 39 ongoing water supply and 57 ongoing drainage schemes during the current calendar year. The new 28 water supply and 15 drainage schemes meant to be completed next fiscal were expected to get completed this financial year.

Minister Saeed Ghani said that during the current fiscal his department would complete 100 schemes worth Rs13.5bn.

Roads, flyovers for Karachi

The chief minister said he would sanction some important schemes for Karachi next fiscal which included roads, flyovers and beautification of important places. He added that the rural areas of Karachi would also be given importance in the next Annual Development Plan.

At a meeting on the education department, the chief minister was told by Education Minister Sardar Shah that there were 9,600 shelterless schools in Sindh; of them only 71 units had around 100 enrolments.

Taking a policy decision, the CM said shelterless schools which had enrolment of about 40 should be shifted to a nearby government school.

“Schools having fewer than 40 students cannot be termed schools; those schools may be scrapped from the list of shelterless schools.”

He also asked the education ministry to focus on teachers’ training programmes.

Mr Shah also asked the education hierarchy to reconstruct 160 dangerous school buildings. “Some school buildings have become too old and fragile, and need to be reconstructed.”

A meeting of the works and services department was told that there were 349 schemes, including one new one worth Rs33.5bn against which Rs26.5bn had been released.

Works and Services Minister Nasir Shah said that of the 348 schemes, 326 were highways, 14 at Thar Coal — the road schemes transferred Thar Coal to the works department — and three transferred by the special initiatives department. He said that of the 349 schemes, 108 would be completed by the end of the current financial year.

The chief minister was told at another meeting on the irrigation department that 56 schemes of Rs18.1bn would be completed by the end of current fiscal.

Nasir Shah said some schemes soon to be completed included construction of a stone pitching/retaining wall of Rohri Canal near Ranipur, construction of a bridge over the LBOD main Sim Nullah and construction of a drain from Ali Ahmad Mahri to T.M. Khan.

CM Shah said he would pay surprise visits to some of those schemes after approval of the budget.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2019