KARACHI: The federal government announced on Friday an ambitious Rs125 billion Sindh barrage project on the River Indus, winning support from the provincial government to build a huge structure 45km from the sea in the south of Thatta and east of Karachi to address environmental issues of sea intrusion and land degradation.
The unusual consensus between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf at the Centre and the Pakistan Peoples Party in Sindh was reached at a meeting presided over by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at the CM House. It was attended by a federal government delegation led by Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda, Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman retired Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain and senior officials from both sides.
“The project would cost around Rs125bn,” said Mr Vawda while talking to reporters after the meeting. “We are quite sure that the prime minister will approve the funding. The good thing is that during the meeting the Sindh chief minister also agreed to share the cost if we need that in case of shortage from the Centre. But right now we are very much hopeful that the federal government would bear the cost of this project,” he added.
The huge structure is aimed at addressing environmental issues of sea intrusion, land degradation
Earlier, a statement issued by the CM House after the meeting said the two sides had agreed to work for development of the country, resolve the water crisis in Sindh and lay foundation for welfare of the region as the project would meet the needs for the next several decades.
“Due to non-availability of water downstream Kotri sea intrusion has destroyed hundreds of villages in Thatta and Sujawal districts and badly affected the delta,” the statement quoted CM Shah as saying during the meeting. “As a result, wetland habitats, mangroves and marine life growth have not only come to a standstill but also vanished to a large extent. Hundreds of families have migrated from the areas in search of livelihood somewhere else,” it added.
Mr Vawda and the Wapda chairman, while briefing the chief minister, said Indus was the largest river and lifeline of the country’s agricultural economy.
“Indus River flows with mild gradient one metre per 18km. Downstream Kotri annual flows have been recorded at 27.9 MAF (million acre feet) to the sea. Flood protection bunds exist on both banks of Indus River stretch and the flood plain is 8-12km,” the meeting was informed.
According to the statement, the Wapda chairman told the meeting that there was a plan to construct a 12-metre high barrage on the Indus at a distance of 45km from the sea. He said that dykes on both banks in flood plain would be four to nine metres high and the reservoir in flood plain from the barrage would be 160km upstream, adding that there would be two canals on each side for irrigation and drinking water in the coastal area.
Mr Hussain said the Right Bank Canal (RBC) would be constructed from Ghorabari to Gharo and the Left Bank Canal (LBC) from Sujawal to Golarchi.
At this, according to the statement, the chief minister suggested that the RBC should be built up to Dhabeji so that it could provide water to Karachi and the LBC should be constructed from Golarchi to Thar to provide drinking water to the people of Thar.
The Wapda chief told the meeting that around 56,500 acres of land would be acquired for the purpose — 55,000 acres for flood plain, 700 acres for the RBC and 800 acres for the LBC.
The chief minister was of the opinion that since both the canals would be taken up to Dhabeji and Thar, 80,000 acres of land would have to be acquired.
The meeting was told that a conceptual study by Wapda had been completed, while feasibility study would be done by September 2020, vetting by international consultants by December 2020 and detailed engineering design by 2021. Construction work on the project would start in January 2022 and it would be completed by December 2024.
Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2019