Groundbreaking of Chashma canal in sight at last

Chashma Right Bank Canal

PESHAWAR:  The Chashma Right Bank Canal (Gravity-cum-Lift-1) project is likely to be launched shortly with the federal government playing a lead role in raising funds for this economically vital project, according to sources here.

Political parties, representing wide ideological divide, have begun claiming credit for bringing it out of cold storage.“The federal government has assured us that it is signing an agreement with China under which funds will be arranged for CRBC (Lift-1) project,” Senator Haji Adeel, a senior Awami National Party leader, told Media on Thursday.On the other hand, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) has put up banners in different parts of Dera Ismail Khan town claiming credit for bringing the project to life.

“The JUI-F has announced that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will shortly perform the groundbreaking of the project,” Sheikh Mukarram, president of Aiwan-i-Zaraat (Chamber of Agriculture), DI Khan, said over the telephone.He said the party through banners in different parts of the city had been propagating for the last four five days that its chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman got CRBC (Lift-1) and a few other irrigation projects approved from the Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani during a recent meeting between the two.

Some 286,140 barren acres will be irrigated with the completion of the CRBC (Lift-1) that has seen its estimated cost going up from Rs25 billion in 2003-04 to Rs61 billion in 2010 due to dillydallying on part of the successive federal governments.According to officials of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa irrigation department, the project completion cost is expected to have gone higher in view of inflationary trends.

“It’s expected that it will now cost over Rs100 billion to complete the project,” said a well-placed irrigation department official.The money does not appear to be an issue if one goes by the provincial government’s resources as in provincial finance minister Humayun Khan’s recent budget speech in which he claimed that the size of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s annual development programme has registered over 160 per cent compared to the 2008-09 level.

Mr Adeel said the provincial government in a spate of meetings with the federal authorities had told them that it was ready to pocket funds for implementing the project.The province, he added, had consented to raise a substantial amount of funds for the project in case if the federal government released funds for its execution. “The province will provide Rs2 billion in the new financial year if the federal government also provided the same amount,” said the ANP senator.

He, however, said the federal government had allocated only Rs100 million for the project under its next year’s Public Sector Development Programme.Similarly, the provincial government, too, had made a ‘token’ allocation under its new ADP for the project.The provincial government, according to its next financial year’s ADP, has allocated Rs0.010 million for CRBC (Lift-1).

At a news conference on June 9, 2012, the provincial finance minister and planning and development secretary Salim Khan had announced that the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would shortly hear a good news vis-à-vis launching the CRBC (Lift-1) project.Mr Adeel, who is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s member on the National Finance Commission, said the Senate’s standing committee on finance, while reviewing the federal budget for the financial year 2012-13, had asked the federal government for enhancing the allocation for the CRBC (Lift-1) from Rs100 million to Rs2 billion.

On the other hand, JUI-F has launched a public campaign in DI Khan (the hometown of Maulana Fazlur Rehman) claiming credit for making Prime Minister Gilani to agree to launch the project. Mr Mukarram said JUI-F had also done wall chalking across Dera Ismail Khan town, pronouncing the near-future inauguration of the CRBC (Lift-1) project jointly by PM Gilani and Mr Fazl.“Maulana (Fazlur Rehman) has taken a considerable political risk in an election year as non-fulfillment of the announcement has the potential to backfire,” said the growers’ leader.

About the likely inauguration of the project, ANP’s Haji Adeel said the federal government could not do it without taking Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti on board.“Prime Minister Gilani and Chief Minister Hoti will jointly perform the ground breaking whenever it takes place,” said Senator Adeel, dispelling JUI-F’s announcements in this regard. – Dawn