Govt concerned over slow pace of work on Gomal Zam Dam irrigation system

Updated June 24, 2019

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USAID-funded project plans to develop command area of 191,000 acres in DI Khan and Tank. — APP/File
USAID-funded project plans to develop command area of 191,000 acres in DI Khan and Tank. — APP/File

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has voiced its concern over slow progress on Gomal Zam Dam irrigation system for development of vast area in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts.

The USAID-funded multibillion rupee project plans to develop command area of 191,000 acres in the two districts. Documents available with Dawn show that recently provincial chief secretary expressed his annoyance over slow pace of work on the project.

“Things are not moving as planned,” the chief secretary wrote, directing the officials to convene a meeting of project steering committee, which he would also attend. The meeting is scheduled for Monday (today).

USAID-funded project plans to develop command area of 191,000 acres in DI Khan and Tank

The documents note that the pace of work on the project was quite slow owing to law and order situation in the area and non-hiring of project implementation unit and project management unit teams on which USAID had also shown its apprehensions.

It stated that in October 2017, those recruitments were finalised, however, the earlier appointed project director was terminated for technical reasons and the post charge was handed over to a senior officer of on farm water management department. It said that full financial powers were also assigned to the project director GZD with the approval of smooth execution of project activities.

It said that keeping in view the apprehension of the USAID and in the light of the Pakistan Engineering Council’s advice, management recently again changed the project head and appointed senior agriculture engineer of agriculture department as project head of Gomal Zam Dam-Command Area Development Project (GZD-CADP).

The official has long been associated with the project. However, he has been assigned additional charge of the post to move forward the working plan of the approved project and his appointment case on regular basis is being taken by provincial steering committee, headed by the additional chief secretary of planning and development department for his approval.

The document noted that the revision of PC-1 and extension of the stipulated time of project up to June 2022, planned to cater to activities lagging behind its timelines, as well additional scope of the project was being added due to construction of Warren Canal.

“The tacit approval of the extension of the project period up to June 2022 has already been accorded by USAID, of which formal approval is awaited,” it said.

The document said that the GZD-CADP was initiated back in 2014-15 and primarily it had three main components including construction of dam, canal irrigation system and command area of 191,000 acres of land.

The first component was the mandate of Wapda, which was executed through Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) while canal irrigation system was partially completed by FWO, leaving the construction of Warren Canal portion of the system.

Engineering chakbandis of the so far completed irrigation system has been handed over to irrigation and agriculture department for working out their revenue and command area development through respective department.

The command area development itself has four components including construction/alignment of initially planned 393 watercourses along with precision land levelling, 393 water reservoirs connected to high efficiency irrigation system, enhancing crops productivity, horticulture and livestock and value added agriculture and marketing of products.

The documents said that since the farmers had to pay two per cent share of the project, the government agreed to pay it in shape of interest-free loan.

It said that the law and order situation in the areas that resulted into causalities changed the pace of work to sluggish, however, despite volatile security situation, the project executed work on 189 watercourses of 245 outlets.

However, a source told Dawn that since the start, the project did not have a dedicated head and even now an official was given additional charge for such an important scheme, which had the potential to change the life of thousands of people in the region.

Agriculture Secretary Israr Khan told Dawn that it was a normal meeting to discuss project strategy and had nothing extraordinary about it. Regarding delay in completion of the project, he said that the scheme was launched late beyond the schedule at the start.

Regarding the project director, he said that a senior engineer, who had good knowledge and experience of the project, was chosen as per the requirements of the Pakistan Engineering Council.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2019