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Caretaker govt okays Thal canal project amid Sindh protest

The forum gave approval of the project subject to approval of the CCI

By Mehtab Haider
February 08, 2024
Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue, and Economic Affairs Dr Shamshad Akhtar presides over an ECNEC meeting in Islamabad on February 7, 2024. — X/@Financegovpk
Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue, and Economic Affairs Dr Shamshad Akhtar presides over an ECNEC meeting in Islamabad on February 7, 2024. — X/@Financegovpk

ISLAMABAD: Just a day ahead of the general election and despite strong reservations shown by Sindh, the caretaker government Wednesday granted approval for the controversial Greater Thal Canal Project Phase-II with the condition to get approval from the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

Sindh’s Caretaker Revenue Minister Younas Dagha protested during the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting on Wednesday and argued that it was not the mandate of the interim government, but the ECNEC granted its assent by ignoring his protest. The ECNEC directed the Sindh government to present its views regarding techno-economic viability of Greater Thal Canal (Phase-II) project to the Council of Common Interests. The forum gave approval of the project subject to approval of the CCI.

The summary for the CCI, presented by Sindh, states clearly that the Sindh Assembly passed a resolution and expressed grave concerns over the construction of Jalalpur Canal and Chaubara Branch of Canal Project Greater Thal Canal (Phase-II) and demanded immediate stopping of the process and construction of the project in the best interest of the people of Sindh. Then the CCI was requested to consider stopping the project, but now the ECNEC has granted its nod in the meanwhile in a hasty manner.

According to an official announcement made by the finance ministry late on Wednesday night, Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue, and Economic Affairs Dr Shamshad Akhtar presided over an ECNEC meeting. The participants were briefed about a summary from the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives on “Sehat Sahulat Program (3rd revised)” with the submission to maintain continuity of the said programme until June 3 of the current year with provision of assistance only to the population below the poverty line (less than 32.5PMT). The forum gave approval with the directions to prepare all modalities regarding technical scope and design, financial plan, regulatory framework and other institutional arrangements for upcoming government to take decision for continuation of the project beyond June 2024.

A project of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives regarding “Establishment of Infectious Disease Laboratory (IDL)” with the total cost of Rs8,289.913 million [8.289 billion] was approved owing to advance level 4 lab for handling pathogens, research and development for indigenous virus and bacteria after COVID-19. Another project of Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives regarding “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Rural Roads Development Project (KP-RRD) -- Asian Development Bank (ADB) Assisted” was placed for consideration of ECNEC at the total cost of Rs105,450 million [105.45 billion]. The forum approved the project for improved rural accessibility, connectivity and unlocking the economic and development opportunities for inhabitants of KP province.

The project of “Construction of Additional Carriageway of Torkham-Jalalabad Road Project (ACW TJRP) in the Afghanistan (2nd Revised)” was presented by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives in detail. ECNEC gave approval of the project at the total cost of Rs17,140.622 million [17.14 billion] without FEC with the direction to complete the project within this fiscal year.

The Revised PC-I for installation of telemetry system for real time discharge monitoring at 27 key sites on Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS) was placed before ECNEC by Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives at a total cost of Rs23,834.707 million [23.834 billion] and got approved. Another Summary of Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives regarding “Peshawar Northern Bypass Project (PNBP)- 32.2-km (3rd Revised)” was also approved by ECNEC with the direction to complete before end of the current fiscal year.

The summary from Economic Affairs Division regarding “Relending of Loans to Provincial Governments Obtained by the Federal Government for Polio Eradication Program” was approved owing to the fact that three provinces had already agreed to relent the loan obtained by the federal government.

The provincial share of loan for repayment will be calculated by the Ministry of Health Services, Regulations and Coordination in consultation with respective finance and health departments. The summary of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives regarding “Development of National Irrigation Network for Green Pakistan Initiative” was discussed in detail with the submission to Ministry of Water Resources and provinces to allocate priority to strategic canals in accordance with the National Water Policy.