KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly was informed on Thursday that the Rs3 billion project for the installation of five combined effluent treatment (CET) plants in the industrial zones of the city was being delayed as the federal government had so far not released its share of funds.

Giving a statement and replies to the lawmakers’ written and verbal queries during the Question Hour session in the house, Industries and Commerce Minister Jam Ikramullah Dharejo said that the scheme for the installation of five CET plants had been approved jointly by the provincial and federal governments.

He said that the project would be funded jointly by the Sindh and federal governments with shares of 67 per cent and 37pc, respectively.

Mr Dharejo said the provincial government had initially allocated Rs500 million for the project which was being executed by the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board under the administrative control of the industries and commerce department.

New minister ill-prepared to answer questions asked by lawmakers

He admitted that the provincial government also had financial constraints, adding that the funds allocated by it would be released shortly.

However, the newly-inducted minister had to cut a sorry figure as he did not have the details of the funds to be spent on the project. He did not have answers to most of the verbal question posed by opposition members, promising them that he would furnish all details by next Monday.

Speaker Aga Siraj Durrani came to his rescue telling the opposition members that Mr Dharejo had recently taken charge of the industries and commerce ministry and he might not have been properly briefed by his department’s secretaries. He advised the minister to obtain required details from the officials and later share them with the opposition members.

‘Only plant non-functional’

While asking a supplementary question, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf member Arsalan Taj said that the effluent treatment plant at the Korangi Industrial Area, the only plant in the city, was also not functional. The minister, however, said that he was told by the department that the plant was functional.

Mr Taj further revealed that a chunk of land in front of the treatment plant had also been encroached upon where a courier company had set up its warehouse.

“It’s a matter of grave concern if the only plant in the city is not functional,” said Speaker Durrani, advising the minister to visit the site with the opposition member.

Quoting the official website of a provincial government department, the PTI member said that 96pc industrial units did not have effluent treatment facility.

“I have recently assumed the charge of this ministry,” was Mr Dharejo’s reply when the opposition member asked him what action his department had so far taken in that regard.

The speaker asked the minister to get the required information and share it with the opposition members.

Grand Democratic Alliance’s member Nusrat Seher Abbasi rose to ask a supplementary question, but made certain comments. Speaker Durrani interrupted her repeatedly asking her to focus on her supplementary question instead of making utterances irrelevant to the written question asked by PTI’s Khurrum Sher Zaman.

“Supplementary question should be brief, short and elucidative,” he told the GDA member.

Answering another question asked by Mr Zaman, Mr Dharejo said there was no proposal to facilitate small and medium enterprises in obtaining loans to develop their businesses. “The provincial government cannot extend financial facilities to the businessmen due to its financial limits,” he added.

The minister said that new industrial zones were being established in different districts of the province. “An industrial zone will be set up in Larkana shortly,” he said, adding that such a zone would also be established in Dadu, Khairpur and Ghotki.

In reply to yet another written question by PTI’s Zaman, he said that the poor financial state of Sindh Small Industries Corporation was mainly due to overstaffing. He said the provincial government had provided Rs300m during the current financial year to overcome the financial crisis of the SSIC.

In reply to a supplementary question by the PTI member, the minister informed the house that a large number of appointments were made when Rauf Siddiqui of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement was minister.

When Dr Seema Zia of the PTI asked why the provincial government did not get rid of excessive staff in the SSIC, Mr Dharejo said the Pakistan Peoples Party did not want to render people jobless.

In reply to a verbal question by Ms Abbasi, he said that the department provided infrastructural facilities, such as water, gas, electricity and roads, at the industrial zones.

Mr Dharejo said that those allotted plots at the industrial zones were required to establish their businesses within three years. “But when we take action against them for not starting businesses, they get stay orders from courts,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2019