ISLAMABAD: After sitting on its files for 13 years, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has once again expressed an interest in the Ghazi Barotha Water project and has decided to set up a project management unit for it in its headquarters.

Sources said Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on CDA Ali Nawaz Awan, an MNA from the capital, chaired a meeting at the CDA on Tuesday where it was decided that this project was the only viable solution to meet the water requirements of residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

The meeting was also attended by MNA Asad Umar, Rawalpindi MNA Sheikh Rashid Shafique, CDA Chairman Amer Ali Ahmed and others.

Once completed, the project would provide 100 million gallons per day (MGD) of water to Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Sources said that according to previous estimates, the project will cost Rs77 billion; the CDA has been exploring various options, including a public-private partnership, to arrange funding.

45km pipeline termed only viable solution to twin cities’ water woes

Sources said that it was decided during Tuesday’s meeting to set up a project management unit that would focus particularly on liaising with the federal government, Rawalpindi Development Authority and other government and non-government organisations to explore opportunities to move forward with the project.

CDA Member Planning Dr Shahid Mahmood will likely head the unit, sources said. It was also decided that a consultant would be asked to conduct the re-feasibility of the project.

Mr Awan told Dawn that the Ghazi Barotha Water project is a priority for the government, adding: “We are pursuing this project seriously to meet residents’ demands.”

The project has been discussed since 2006, but work has not moved beyond discussion in more than 10 years.

The project envisions a 45 kilometre pipeline that, if executed, would bring water from the Indus River at Ghazi Barotha to Islamabad and then Rawalpindi.

The capital, which has an overall requirement for 220 MGD of water in its urban and rural areas, receives on average 60 MGD for its urban areas while rural residents depend either on water boring or small supply schemes.

Officials said that the urban and rural areas have been facing a shortage of water, particularly when the gap between demand and supply widens during the summer.

CDA officials said that Islamabad, which was developed in 1960, still relies on old water sources such as the Simly and Khanpur dams and tubewells, and no new sources of water have been explored for several decades.

The project was conceived in 2006, and its cost was estimated at Rs37bn. The estimate was revised a few years ago and increased to Rs77bn, and sources said that new estimates could rise to Rs100bn.

Sources said that during Tuesday’s meeting, it was decided that a separate PC-I would be prepared to acquire land for the project, to lay the pipeline.

“The CDA and federal government want to execute the project as soon as possible. As a first step, we are going to set up a project management unit at the CDA,” Chairman Amer Ali Ahmed said.

“We have a token amount in our budget for this project, while various options are being explored for funding,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2019