HYDERABAD: The Sindh government’s steering committee on the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD-II) has advised the provincial government to hand over two-decade-old RBOD-II to Wapda for execution of the remaining part of the project.

The committee which met in Karachi recently with Sindh Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah in the chair discussed RBOD-II handover to Wapda among other issues related to the mega drain project. The provincial irrigation department had already moved a summary in this regard to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah for final decision on the drain’s handover, which was being awaited.

The meeting reviewed issues of land acquisition, frequent transfer/posting of officers in RBOD, appointment of land acquisition officer — as 20pc remaining land for the project was yet to be acquired — and hiring of international consultants for study of the project.

“A huge amount of funds has been expended on the project still it remains incomplete and we are of considered view that Sindh irrigation department will not be able to executive it [project],” admitted a senior functionary of the provincial government.

He said: “Wapda has expertise in building drains. The RBOD-I and III have been built by Wapda, therefore, Sindh government should take a decision and hand over the RBOD-II to Wapda [for execution] because Sindh irrigation department is still struggling to complete the project even after 20 years”.

The Sindh government had been mulling over the possibility of handing over RBOD-II to Wapda for quite some time. “But a final decision is yet to be taken by Sindh chief minister,” said a project official.

He said that irrigation officers concerned were not being posted in the project. “Many positions like executive engineer, technical officer and superintending engineer remained vacant as officers are not willing to serve in the project given the huge task involved,” he added.

The steering committee had earlier recommended the drain project’s handover to the federal government and resolved in May this year that “irrigation department shall move a summary to Sindh chief minister, highlighting problems being faced by RBOD-II and assuring federal government that Sindh will extend full support to centre for completion of the project”. The summary has been moved by the irrigation department and it will soon reach the chief minister after going through proper channels, according to Sindh secretary irrigation Sohail Qureshi.

“We want the federal government to take over the project as it is their brainchild,” Sindh Minister for Irrigation Jam Khan Shoro last week at a press conference. He said that a summary was indeed moved to the chief minister for a decision in this regard.

Work on RBOD-II had remained suspended for a long time. A third party evaluation by a six-member committee headed by Nasir Hanif, adviser (projects) Wapda, was also conducted in line with decision of Sindh government’s project steering committee.

After submission of its report, the Sindh government also decided to hire international consultants for the study of RBOD-II. Some firms have come forward but none has been finalised yet. The project was also hit by corruption of Rs4.48bn and the National Accountability Bureau was to file references about it in Hyderabad’s accountability court.

“If the project is handed over to the federal government then the consulting firm will also be decided by the federal government/Wapda,” said RBOD-II project director Masood Sehar. Officers were to be appointed in the RBOD-II as per decision of steering committee’s Wednesday meeting, he said.

The RBOD-II’s cost has been revised twice over the last 20 years. Initially designed to cost Rs14bn, the project remained incomplete even after back to back upward cost revisions. The first cost revision was made in 2006 when it was increased from Rs14bn to Rs29.217bn. It was then expected that the project would be completed in 2010.

The project suffered damage during floods in 2010 and 2015 when over 0.9m cusecs and 0.6m cusecs of floodwaters passed downstream Kotri barrage and the cost was again revised to Rs61.985bn with approval of Executive Committee of National Economic Council. But again deadline for the completion of the project in November 2019 could not be met.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2021

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