Construction of Chirrah Dam still not in sight

Published April 27, 2021
According to the initial PC-I, the cost of the project was Rs5.30 billion with a four-year completion time. — AFP/File
According to the initial PC-I, the cost of the project was Rs5.30 billion with a four-year completion time. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: While the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad are facing shortage of water, a small joint project to construct Chirrah Dam with a capacity of 15 million gallon daily (mgd) is still a pipe dream.

The proposed dam already approved by the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) is to be built jointly by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the government of Punjab.

According to the initial PC-I, the cost of the project was Rs5.30 billion with a four-year completion time. As the work could not be started, the cost has now increased manifold.

The site of the proposed dam is located on Soan River at about two km southeast of Chirrah village in Islamabad and 25 km northeast of Rawalpindi at the eastern side of Rawalpindi-Lehtrar Road. The catchment area is 225 square km with 50 years adopted life of the dam.

Project being undertaken by CDA, Punjab govt to bring 15mgd of water to twin cities

Though there is no serious development on part of Punjab and the federal government, a subcommittee of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Water Resources headed by MNA from Islamabad Ali Nawaz Awan is going to take up the issue in the upcoming meeting.

“This chronic issue is part of our agenda for upcoming meeting. This project should have been started years ago but it remained neglected. We are going to take it up as we want allocation of funds through Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2021-22,” said the MNA, who is also the special assistant to the prime minister on CDA affairs.

He said the meeting of the committee is likely to be held in the first week of May. CDA officials said up to 2014, the civic agency had deposited Rs851 million with the Punjab government.

CDA’s document showed that physical work is supposed to be started by the Punjab government after approval of the revised PC-I.

It said later a revised PC-I amounting to Rs17.824 billion was submitted by Small Dam Organisation (SDO) to the consultant for review and clearance.

“After review and clearance, consultant M/s Nespak forwarded it to the government of Punjab for consideration,” read the document.

The executive engineer of SDO in a letter dated on Nov 6, 2020, informed the CDA that the SDO intended to conduct a fresh feasibility study and revision of the construction cost which was expected to be over Rs22 billion.

In 2018, the CDA told the executive engineer that the authority had paid Rs851.8 million to the SDO for the project. “But still there is no response from your side that when the project will start and what would be its completion date,” the letter written by CDA’s director water and sewerage development had said.

During the last two decades, no new source of water has been explored in Islamabad. Currently, the residents are being provided 60 to 70mgd against the total need of 220 mgd for entire Islamabad.

The CDA has three main supply sources: Simly Dam, Khanpur Dam and tubewells.Currently, the federal government is focusing on mega Ghazi Barotha project (conduction of water from Terbela Dam) which is designed to bring 100 mgd each to Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Recently, while chairing a meeting, Planning Minister Asad Umar said the Ghazi Barotha project will be completed on a public-private partnership mode but the cost of acquiring land would be equally borne by the federal and the Punjab governments.

A couple of weeks ago, the federal cabinet authorised the CDA to engage the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) for the project. “Islamabad’s water crisis is manageable but unfortunately during the last three decades after the construction of Simly Dam and bringing water from Khanpur Dam no effort was made to explore new options that resulted into the water crisis,” said an official of the CDA.

He said the only achievement in the period was adding two mgd to the system from Rawal Dam as recently the CDA got the two mgd water supply restored after around 25 years. On the other hand, the population of Islamabad has increased to over 2.2 million.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2021

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