BAHAWALPUR: The Punjab government has decided to revive a 12-year-old project of the development of the “rubber dam” in the dried-up Sutlej river bed near the city.

Originally, the proposal for the construction of a rubber dam and lake was floated by PML-N’s Baleeghur Rehman after being elected as MNA in 2008. Mr Rehman, then special assistant to the Punjab chief minister, had repeatedly referred to the construction of this dam in his speeches to the locals.

The former federal minister claims that the development of a lake in the dried-up Sutlej bed would serve as a recreational place for the local population in addition to an opportunity to recharge the underground water table in the vast area around the city.

Currently, the city’s surroundings have deep and saline underground water with huge deposits of arsenic substances.

In 2008, Rehman had submitted a proposal to the then chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, who approved the project, but could not ensure allocation of funds for it. Thus, the project was shelved. Later, in 2013, the provincial irrigation department began work on the project afresh and sought financial support from the World Bank.

Back then, former PML-N senator Saood Majid Chaudhry had told Dawn that the World Bank was likely to provide funds for the dam. But the PML-N’s second term in the province also passed without the sanctioning of funds for the project.

Now, the irrigation department had started work on it once again. Irrigation Chief Engineer Khalid Bashir told Dawn that work on the preparation of a feasibility report would begin soon as the government had decided to revive this project to ameliorate the problems of the locals. The National Engineering Services Pakistan had been tasked with preparation of the report, which could take a year, he added.

He further said that the height of the dam, which would be downstream of the highway overhead bridge, would be three metres and the length eight to 10 kilometres. World Bank funds worth about $75 million, left over from some other development scheme, would be utilised for the project, which the Bank had to agreed to.

After finalisation of the feasibility report and its approval, PC-I of the project would be prepared for the allocation of necessary funds.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2020

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