ISLAMABAD   -   Grilling the Singh government, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the government’s report regarding funds for construction of Nai Gaj Dam and summoned the Sindh chief secretary on May 23. The top court has also summoned the secretary of Sindh Irrigation Department.

The provincial government in its report had stated that the proposal submitted by WAPDA in the form of 2nd Revised PC-I for construction of Dam amounting Rs.47,732.55 million, envisages land acquisition, resettlement, security and command area development with an estimated cost accumulated to Rs.1899.2 million to be provided by the government of Sindh, whereas cost of works and allied items are to be financed by the Federal Government.

“As desired by the court, the anticipated amount as proposed by WAPDA, against land acquisition, resettlement and security Rs.1899.2 million stands streamlined with provision in ADP and allocation of Rs.188 million during 2018-19, which shall be provided as soon as demanded.”

On behalf of the government of Sindh it is committed that the command area development shall be synchronized with completion and commissioning of the dam as per procedures and policies of the government.

However, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, which took up the case regarding construction of Nai Gaj Dam in Sindh for hearing, rejected the report and summoned the Sindh chief secretary.

Justice Saeed, during the course of hearing, observed that if the people of Sindh don’t want water then it is their choice.

He further expressed dismay over the provincial government’s response in the matter and observed, “We know which districts the Sindh government wants to flood. Does the Sindh government want us to take the names of those districts in court?”

He further remarked that either the chief secretary should give a statement mentioning there is no need to irrigate the land in Dadu.

“Once the chief secretary gives the statement, then the court will review its decision,” Justice Saeed further observed adding that the court may review its orders regarding the construction of the dam as it can no longer take the burden of this. During the hearing, another member of the bench Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the provincial government has now refused to accept the decision of Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC).

He observed that the cost of the project is being increased with the passage of time adding that the earlier cost of the project was Rs.26 billion but now it is Rs.46 billion.

Likewise, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms in its application stated that the Dam was first approved in 2009 at the cost of Rs.16.924 billion but the project could not be completed in specified time and cost.

In 2012 revised project was approved at revised cost of Rs.26.236 billion. Till date Rs.12 Billion has been spent whereas, physical progress as reported by WAPDA is 51%.

It added that the 2nd Revised PC-I of the project with enhanced cost of Rs.47.732 billion was considered by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) in January 2019 and after deliberations, recommended the project for consideration of ECNEC at rationalized cost of Rs.46.980 billion with some conditions.

ECNEC in its meeting held on January 25, 2019 had decided that as a matter of principle, the projects benefitting a single Province should be financed through provinces’ own resources. However, since the project was already under implementation through Federal funding, the Government of Sindh may be asked to share 50% of the additional cost over and above the first revision in 2012.

The revised cost of the project in 2012 was Rs.26.236 billion. As per recommendation of ECNEC, the Sindh is required to share 50% cost of the project over and above the cost approved in 2012.

“Meaning thereby an amount of Rs.20.744 [46.980-26.236] billion, half of this amount i.e. Rs.10.372 billion is to be committed by the Sindh government,” the application stated.

The ministry maintained that the Federal Government is willing and ready to provide funds to the extent of its share.

It added that the Government of Sindh as per its own application filed on April 2 of 2019 is stick to the financial formula of WAPDA which is Rs.1,899.2 million, as their share.

“The amount on part of Sindh Government (Land Acquisition, Environment and Security) was Rs.1,549.2 million in the original PC-I, which became Rs.1,899.2 million in 1st revised approved PC-l and continued to be the same in the 2nd revised PC-I.”

This amount is already included in cost of project approved in 2012 at Rs. 26.236 billion whereas the ECNEC has directed for 50% share of Provincial Government over and above the approved cost of 2012, as aforesaid.

The provincial government has to commit 50% of additional cost which comes to Rs.10.372 billion to which the provincial government has not made any commitment but the amount already included in revised cost of Rs.26.236 billion approved in 2012, has been re-iterated, despite being single beneficiary. The top court while summoning chief secretary Sindh adjourned the hearing till May 23.

ECNEC in its January 25 meeting had considered the summary submitted by the Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform regarding the Nai Gaj Dam Project (2nd Revised) and deferred its decision on the summary on the request of Government of Sindh.

Release of funds from Federal Government will be linked with the development of command area by the Government of Sindh in sync with the dam project, the meeting had however decided while issuing directions to Ministry of Planning, Development & Reforms.

ECNEC had also directed the ministry to seek opinion of the Law & Justice Division on the extent to which the government is bound to implement direction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding inclusion of a specific component in any project.