CHAKWAL: A mega water supply project for Chakwal, launched in 2014, still remains in the doldrums as its cost revised for the fourth time awaits approval from Planning and Development Board of Punjab.

Chakwal Municipal Committee has also expressed its inability to take over the project as it lacks manpower and other resources.

The project, which was initially approved with an estimated cost of Rs572.103 million in 2014, has now been revised to Rs1,375 million.

Due to the delay, the water scarcity in the city is getting intensified as the water table in many localities has depleted to alarming levels.

According to Public Health and Engineering Department (PHE), the city needs nine cusecs of water but it is hardly getting five cusecs.

“The countless water bores in the city have badly decreased the water table. Few years ago, water was found 100 feet below the surface but now we have to sink more than 400 feet water bore,” said Mohammad Amjad, a bore drilling operator .

The commercial use of potable water is also adding to the water scarcity. Many local companies are selling potable water not only in Chakwal but also out of the district.

Moreover, turbines installed to irrigate crops in the vicinity of the city are also playing their part in increasing the water woes of the citizens.

Former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif had promised to end the water woes of Chakwal city during his electioneering in May 2013 when he addressed a public rally in Chakwal. After becoming the chief minister, he approved the water supply scheme on the recommendation of late MPA Chaudhry Liaquat Ali Khan and his wife Iffat Liaquat, who was MNA.

The project was to be completed at a cost of Rs572.103 million. Under the urban water supply scheme, six cusec water was supposed to be supplied to Chakwal city, two cusecs from Khai Dam and four cusecs from tubewells to be dug in the outskirts of Khai, Bhoiun and Shamsabad villages.

But the residents of these villages filed a writ petition in Lahore High Court (LHC), pleading that tubewells would cause water shortage in their villages.

The LHC refrained PHE from digging wells and directed it to take alternative steps. PHE revised its plan and chose Dhrabi Dam for getting four cusecs of water.

As the Dharabi Dam was far away from the proposed tubewells site, the cost of the project was also increased to Rs1,018.16 million.

Work was started in May 2014 but so far PHE could do only 34pc of the task as it has only managed to supply two cusecs of water to the city from Khai Dam.

Nothing has been done yet to get four cusecs of water from Dharabi Dam. Due to the lingering project, the cost has also been further increased to Rs1,375 million but the revised cost estimate is yet to be approved by Planning and Development Board.

“We are facing hurdles as MC is not ready to take over the project once it is completed. The no-objection certificate from MC is required for the approval of the revised cost estimate,” PHE Executive Engineer Shafqat Ali told Dawn.

A letter written by the chief officer of MC said it could only run the scheme if it is provided 16 workers and financial assistance.

“This is not the job of PHE to recruit employees for another public sector department nor is it our domain to provide financial assistance to any other department”, said Mr Ali.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2020

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