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Affectees of Mirani dam: Balochistan government grilled for not paying compensation even after 15 years


Senate Standing Committee on Water Resources on Wednesday grilled Balochistan government for not paying compensation to the affectees of Mirani dam even after 15 years. Headed by Senator Shammim Afridi, the committee was discussing a point of public importance raised by Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Muhammad Shahi regarding "compensation to the affectees of Mirani dam". Senator Mir Kabeer argued that the survey of the affectees was conducted in 2004 but compensation will be given in 2019, which is unfair. He contended that the condition of the dam affectees is like those of beggars.

The officials of provincial government informed the committee that the amount of compensation for each affectee could not be finalised in 2014 due to which the earmarked amount lapsed and no amount was earmarked for the next fiscal year.

Senator Qurat-ul-Ain Marri said that the amount is with the provincial government for the last four years but it is not releasing it to the affectees due to technical reasons.

The official informed the committee that third party verification is being conducted after the amount was handed over to the provincial government.

"Third party verification is impossible after 21 years. What can the Baloch do but get bitter," said Senator Mir Kabeer. Senator Usman Kakar who hails from Balochistan said that efforts are being made to further delay payment under the guise of verification.

Minister for Water Resources, Faisal Vawda informed the committee that the compensation funds have been spent on other items and not released to the affectees. "Stories are being presented to the standing committee instead of paying compensation to the people," he added.

The committee expressed annoyance at the absence of senior officials of Balochistan government to provide an update on compensation. "We will send this issue to the privilege committee if Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary, Secretary Irrigation and Secretary Revenue do not appear before the committee," warned Chairman Standing Committee adding that the issue can not be settled in the absence of the provincial bureaucracy.

Chairman Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), Lt-General, Muzammal Hussain (retd) briefed the committee on the 969MW Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project. He informed the committee that the project is generating 1075MW electricity instead of 969MW. He further claimed that the project was completed within Rs 474 billion (instead of Rs 503 billion) and out of the total expenditure of 474 billion, Rs 80 billion was spent on Interest During Construction (IDC) which was not part of the initial estimates, Rs 75 billion on cost escalation and Rs 70 billion rupee dollar parity as the cost was estimated at Rs 120/dollar. He argued that out of Rs 474 billion, Rs 244 billion was actually not spent on the project which implies the project was completed in Rs 220 billion. Secretary Water Resources said that a number of surprises are usual during the construction of a dam.

Senator Usman Kakar stated that if the project had been completed at the initial cost of Rs 84 billion, Rs 400 billion could have been saved. Senator Ahmed Khan proposed that tendering process should be formulated in such a way that projects are awarded only to local companies, adding that if contracts are awarded to local companies, construction industry would be revived. Senator Mir Kabeer maintained that there is no need to have dollar component in projects' cost when everything in the country is in rupees. Chairman Standing Committee, Shammim Afridi pledged to go to any lengthen to resolve Balochistan's issues.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019


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