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Saturday February 24, 2024

Telemetry system on 25 sites: Rs23bn project fails to get CDWP nod

Telemetry system was first installed in 2003 at cost of Rs340m, which faced complete failure and IRSA disowned it

February 02, 2024
A representational image of convergence of Indus River and Tibet river. — AFP/File
A representational image of convergence of Indus River and Tibet river. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) on Thursday refused to approve the project to install a telemetry system on 25 key sites on the Indus Basin System at a questionable cost of Rs22.833 billion, asking the water resources ministry and Wapda to first erase the objections of provinces on the site selections and provide rationale for the project cost, top officials who were part of the meeting told The News.

“The authorities concerned have been directed to come up with the project after one week but after erasing all the objections to the project,” they said.

The objectives of the project, they said, include availability of online and accurate information on water availability and flow information, building confidence of all stakeholders, maintaining databases at each location for analyses and having planning and for auditing purposes, real-time flows to analyse losses/ gains patterns. “Trust-building is an important objective of the project. The technology keeps on changing with time. The authorities, however, need to have to design a system that matches our type of hydrology and geology. The system must cover the measurement of water going to provinces from the river system with high accuracy,” they added.

The officials said, “In the meeting, Wapda was asked as to why it had not first implemented the project under which the telemetry system was to be installed on seven sites for which the PC-1 was approved by the CDWP.”

“The cost of installing the telemetry system at seven sites was Rs2.4 billion. However, Wapda hired Nespak as a consultant instead of the international firm which topped the merit for the Rs2.4 billion project.” The Planning Commission’s deputy chairman, they said, also raised queries as to why not the international competitive bidding (ICB) should be held for hiring international consultants. He also told the authorities that it would be better to first proceed with installing the telemetry system on seven sites as this project is already approved instead of going for 25 sites.

Now, Wpada has come up with the project to install a full-fledged telemetry system with automation of 25 key sites for the discharge monitoring on the Indus Basin Irrigation System with a cost of Rs22.833 billion and to this effect, the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) has given the responsibility to Wapda for preparing the PC-1 for the project.

The telemetry system was first installed in 2003 at the cost of Rs340 million, which faced a complete failure and IRSA disowned it. After that, the telemetry system to be installed on seven sites was approved in 2018. Now, the authorities want to extend the project to 18 more sites at the cost of Rs22.83 billion.

The officials said that the cost is highly questionable, adding that if the system is installed on seven sites for Rs2.4 billion, then on the remaining 18 sites, the cost should have been Rs7-8 billion at the maximum. “However, Rs22.83 billion cost is beyond understanding.”

The Planning Commission earlier approved the telemetry system on seven sites as a pilot project. The seven monitoring sites include Marala Barrage, Chashma Barrage, Chashma Right Bank Canal (Ramak), Taunsa Barrage, Guddu Barrage, Garang (Kirther Canal) and Pat Feeder Canal (RD 109). Now, the system will be installed on remaining 18 sites, which include Tarbela Dam/ Ghazi Barrage, Kabul at Nowshera, Jinnah Barrage, Sukkur Barrage, Kotri Barrage, Mangla Dam, Rasul Barrage, Khanki Headworks, Panjnad Headworks, Balloki Headworks, Sidhnai Barrage, Sulemanki Headworks, Islam Headworks, Uch Canal, Manuthy Canal and Kachhi Canal at RD 1005.

Water resources expert Dr Arif Aziz Anwar, in the pre-CDWP meeting, showed his concerns, raising the question as to why there is an urgent need to increase the key sites from seven to 25. He argued that it is not just a technical issue but also as much social and political issue.