ISLAMABAD - The Ministry for Planning, Development and Reforms has asked the Wapda to take action against those officials who have awarded the contract of Nai Gaj Dam, at a higher cost, without the approval of the competent forum.

The cost of Nai Gaj project was increased to Rs46 billion from the original approved cost of Rs16.55 billion in 2009, official sources told The Nation. The official said that Wapda has awarded the contract at a higher cost without approaching competent forum. The issue was raised last month in a meeting between Ministry of Water and Power, Economic Affair Division, planning ministry and Wapda. The meeting was informed that the project was originally approved in 2009 at the cost of Rs16.55 billion in 2009 however the project was not completed within stipulated time and cost was increased to Rs26 billion and later to Rs47 billion.

Nai Gaj Dam is being constructed across Gaj River in district Dadu of Sindh with a total project cost of about Rs46 billion. The 194-foot high dam will store 300,000 acre feet of water to irrigate about 29,000 acres of land. The project will create employment opportunities for 6,500 persons during the construction, operation and its maintenance. Annual benefits of the project have been estimated more than Rs3 billion. The Nai Gaj Dam project was approved by Ecnec in 2012 and the revised PC-I was considered by the CDWP, costing Rs46.555 billion, in March 2016 but it was deferred.

The Wapda official informed the meeting that the authority had awarded the contract so as to proceed for loan negotiations. However, the representative of the Economic Affairs Division while rejecting the Wapda’s claim said that the formal approval of the project is enough for loan agreement.

The Wapda’s official further informed that liabilities of Rs4.5 billion have been surmounted so far and physical progress is 48 percent. The Wapda has informed that worked was slowed down on the project due to none payment to the contractor. The planning ministry showed concern on financial irregularities in terms of unauthorised contract and have asked Wapda to take action against those who were involved the awarding of the contract, source said.

Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) was polluting Mancher Lake, one of the largest fresh water lakes in Asia, while Nai Gaj was the main fresh water source of the dam, the official said. The resolution of the issues, of stopping of dumping of Saline water in lake (RBOD) and ensuring fresh water supply (Nai Gaj), are the pre-condition for the revival of Mancher lake. Planning experts are of the view that Mancher lake cannot be revived unless fresh water was supplied from Nai Gaj Dam.

Giving the details, the official said that the revised PC-I of the project was approved by the Ecnec in August 2012 at a rationalised cost of Rs26.24 billion after removing some component of the project. However, the Sindh government had resented the removal of these components and said “The environmental requirement of the project could not be addressed if the water from Nai Gaj is not supplied to Mancher Lake as the Gaj River is only fresh water sources exists in the area.”

The implementation of these components will increase the project cost by 13 percent and will add additional Rs5.80 billion to the total cost. The planning ministry also supported the Sindh stand for adding the environmental component, on the condition that the Sindh government will be paying this additional amount from the provincial kitty. After the 18th amendment environmental is deregulated subject and must be funded from the provincial pool, the official added. After successful consultations with all the stakeholders it has been decided that Nai Gaj will be moved to the CDWP for approval, sources claimed.