ISLAMABAD -  The Planning Commission (PC) has turned down the Sindh government’s request for the re-appropriation of Rs200 million from the Sukkur Barrage to Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD-II) saying that no such transfer is possible unless the project gets the approval of the ECNEC.

Sindh has requested the ministry of Planning Development and Reforms to re-appropriate Rs200 million, allocated in PSDP 2016-17 for the Sukkur Barrage, to the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD-II) project, official source told The Nation here on Sunday.

As per the Sindh government plea, since World Bank is currently providing funds for Sukkur Barrage and the PSDP allocation for the project is laying unutilised, therefore the allocated amount of Rs200 million may be re-appropriated to the RBOD-II which is in need of funding, the source said.

However, the request was turned down by the Planning Commission saying that the project has not been approved by the ECNEC and no fund can be re-appropriated to the unapproved project, the source said.

Giving the details, the source said that unless the resolution of the issue of flood funding with the Sindh government, it is unlikely to get the approval of the ECNEC and till that time there will be no re-appropriation. In fact, no funds can be released to any unapproved project, except the special directives of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The federal and Sindh governments are still at odds as the province has refused to pay its share of Rs14 billion for the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD-II) project. The RBOD projects are aimed at draining the effluent water from Balochistan and Sindh in the Arabian Sea, to protect contamination of Manchar lake. The completion of RBOD-II is crucial for the protection of the flora and fauna of Manchar Lake. The Supreme Court has already initiated suo motu proceedings regarding the growing level of contamination in Manchar Lake and the deprivation of the livelihood of the fishermen.

The revised cost of the RBOD-II projects was approved by the CDWP and referred to the ECNEC for approval. The federal government has agreed to divert Rs3 billion to the RBOD-II during the current financial year as the project cost has gone up by more than 100 percent to Rs61.985 billion. The completion deadline of the RBOD-I, II and III projects was also increased for the fourth time and will be simultaneously completed by 2019. A committee was constituted, in October 2016, under member Infrastructure Planning on RBOD projects. The committee has further constituted a technical subcommittee to make recommendation for the early completion of the RBOD’s projects. Currently, there are three projects in the implementation stage for carrying Balochistan and Sindh disposal into sea. The first leg of the project is RBOD-III, which will carry Balochistan and Sindh effluent disposal. The project is located in Nasirabad, Jaffarabad districts of Balochistan and Kambar, Shahdad Kot districts of Sindh. The project was initiated in 2003 and missed several completion deadlines, however now the government has fixed 2019 a new date of completion.

The second leg is RBOD-I located in Nara desert, district Ghotki and Sukkur, Sindh, which will be used for the disposal of effluent from the Right Bank Sukkur and Guddu Barrage commands area in Sindh. The project was initiated in 1994 and missed several completion deadlines, however now the government has fixed 2019 a new date of completion. Similarly, RBOD-II drain will be connected to RBOD-I at Sehwan and will carry the effluent direct to sea at Gharo. The project of 273-kilometre long RBOD-II was initiated in 2001 with an estimated cost of Rs14 billion, the project was supposed to be completed in 2006. However, it was delayed.

To carry Balochistan’s waste water, RBOD-IIcapacity was revised to 3,525 cusec from 2,271 cusec. The estimated cost was also upward revised to Rs29 billion in 2005 and the completion target was extended to 2008 and then 2014. Now once again the cost was upward revised to Rs61.985 billion and the completion target was transferred to 2019. It is pertinent to mention here that in the 2nd revised PC-I, the Sindh government had estimated the cost to be Rs64.66 billion but the Planning Commission asked for cost rationalisation. After necessary modification and amendments, the RBOD-II project cost was revised to Rs61.985 billion.

The RBOD-II project is located in Jamshoroand Thatta districts of Sindh and is being considered vital for rehabilitation of Asia’s largest fresh water lake, Manchar which receives contaminated water of the RBOD-I. As per the new schedule provided by the technical subcommittee, during the next three years, Rs3,000 million are required for RBOD-I, Rs4,000 million for RBOD-III and Rs19,713 million for RBOD-II. During current fiscal year, Rs5,000 million will be spend on the RBOD-II against the PSDP allocation of Rs2,000 million. Similarly, as per schedule Rs1,800 million are required for the RBOD-I and III during the current fiscal year against the PSDP allocation of Rs2,800 million. An additional Rs3,000 million funds will be required for RBOD-II to achieve the target of the current fiscal year. It was therefore recommended that Rs1,000 million could be transferred to the project from RBOD-I and III, and the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms will arrange the remaining Rs2,000 million through re-appropriation from other projects during the current fiscal.

The sub-committee also recommended that the government of Sindh may also make timely releases of Rs14 billion required for completion of flood protection works as part of RBOD-II project to ensure that work done on the project with the federal government funding is not affected during the flood season. The Sindh government made a commitment, however just before ECNEC meeting it was backed out of paying its share and therefore ECNEC has deferred it’s decision.