KARACHI: The caretaker Sindh cabinet on Tuesday allowed the federal government to use the land of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) for establishing an ‘export processing zone’.

“The cabinet has agreed that the land of PSM can be used by the federal government for the establishment of an Export Processing Zone,” said a statement issued from the CM House after the meeting.

The cabinet, however, imposed a condition on the federal government that the land must only be used for industrial purposes.

The cabinet meeting, chaired by caretaker Chief Minister retired Justice Maqbool Baqar, was informed that the Sindh government had in 1973 granted land to the PSM and at present it is using and controlling over 13,000 acres of that land.

Official sources said that the federal government was planning to build an industrial park on the PSM land under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project

Imposes condition that land can only be used for ‘industrial purposes’; abiana rate increased

The project, named as Karachi Industrial Park, was originally approved in 2017 by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and 1,500 acres of the PSM land was allocated for it. However, no substantial work was carried out on the project until June 2021 when it was approved by the Central Development Working Party.

Rs3bn grant okayed for KDA

On the recommendation of the local government department, the cabinet approved a Rs3 billion grant-in-aid for the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) to clear outstanding dues of its working and retired employees.

The CM said that the retired employees of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and KDA were approaching him for payment of their pensions and retirement benefits.

The Rs3bn one-time grant was approved to clear their outstanding dues.

The cabinet also approved Rs500 million for employees of the Hyderabad Development Authority (HDA).

The cabinet was told that the amount was required to clear the pending pension, salaries, service benefits and other ancillary matters of the HDA employees.

The cabinet also approved Rs300m for payment of salaries to the employees of the Sehwan Development Authority.

Abiana rate increased

The cabinet approved an increase in the rate of the abiana — the service charge levied on farmers for the supply of surface irrigation water and the provision of drainage for crops — by 100 per cent.

The current rate for abiana is Rs53 (riverine water) and Rs363 (tube well and lift machine) per acre and it would be increased to Rs106 and Rs726 per acre, respectively.

The cabinet also increased the water charges for municipal/domestic, industrial and commercial use.

The water rates for municipal/domestic rates are Rs0.50 per 1,000 gallons and the new rate would be Rs4 per 1,000 gallons, showing an increase of 800pc.

The water rate for industrial/commercial use is Re1 per 1,000 gallons and its new rate would be Rs8 per 1,000 gallons.

The cabinet was told that the average annual abiana collection was Rs528.45m against the average annual maintenance and repair expenditure of Rs4.46bn.

Irrigation Secretary Niaz Abbasi informed the cabinet about the rates in Sindh and Punjab.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2024

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