WB officials not satisfied with pace of work on water project
HYDERABAD, July 29: A World Bank mission has expressed concern over the pace of work on the Water Sector Improvement Project after visiting different sites.
It hinted at discontinuing funds for at least one component of the project if the executing agency, the Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority, fails to improve performance.
According to officials associated with the project, members of the mission said that “funds should not be considered easy money and whoever thinks so is sadly mistaken”. The mission visited some minors and distributary canals and Upper Nara Canal area on July 7 along with officials of Sida and WISP.
“They expressed their concerns during field visits and said contractors and farmers’ organisations had failed to resolve issues,” said an official, adding that WB officials had made it clear that all pending issues should be resolved by Aug 8.
A source said that project officials had bee in contact with the provincial planning and development department and ministry of finance and economic affairs division since the mission’s visit.
According to him, the mission was of the view that “the WB may discontinue funding for B2 project which deals with rehabilitation of minor and distributary canals and continue with B1 that concerns canals’ rehabilitation,” he added.
Official sources said the bank had committed 80 per cent funds amounting to $175 million for the project and the 20 per cent was to be given by the Sindh government, which did not materialise.
“The project had a delayed start. It was conceived in 2006 and started in 2010. Since then the work has been going on at a slow pace,” said the source.
He said that Sindh government had allocated Rs1,250 million for the project in 2011-12 budget and later reduced to Rs850 million and then to Rs450 million.
“But even the Rs450 million has not been given. The government claims it is facing financial problems in the wake of 2011 rains and has curtailed or diverted most funds,” he said.
The sources claimed the government had been advised that funding formula could be revised and the government’s share could be reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per. But the advice was not taken seriously.
Under the WISP, Farmers Organisations (FOs) have been assigned the task of overseeing work on minor and distributary canals and verifying bills claimed by contractors.
Farmers are happy about their involvement in the project but contractors are uncomfortable. They want to work according to the directives of consultants while chairmen of FOs want to have their say.
“For instance, FOs want to have excavation of a minor canal up to a particular point which is not compatible with the design and leads to a conflict,” he said.
The official said that WB officials wanted to continue with rehabilitation of canals which was a major component of the project under which Nara canals, Ghotki Feeder and Phulelli canals were to be rehabilitated and regulators and fall structures rebuilt.
He said it would significantly improve their working because canals like Phulelli had almost outlived their life. Last year’s rains affected works, especially in Badin. “In fact, the WISP is still in infancy and so far in upper Nara division 28 per cent of work only
on some minors or distributaries has been carried out,” he said.
“The project envisages an increase in productivity after water starts reaching tail-end areas with watercourses in good shape in addition to minors and distributaries,” he said.
“Work only on two of 23 RDs (reduced distance) of our minor has been completed but to me whatever work has been done so far is good. Modules are properly designed now and unwanted plantation has been removed from the minor canals,” said
Mohammad Soomro, chairman of Beeru Veeran minor canal farmers’ organisation which is part of Akram Wah canal system visited by WB and WISP officials.
Sultan Ahmed, chairman of Raj Wah farmers’ organisation, said that works carried out in the past were of poor quality but now basic issues had been addressed under the WISP.
“The inspection path of minor canals has been rehabilitated, silt has been removed and canals now look in good shape,” he
He said that pace of work would be expedited. “So far, only a few of the 28 RDs have been selected for work.”
According to an official of the Left Bank Area Water Board, work continued on 43 of 123 minor canals and contracts had been
awarded for only 23. “Progress is between 17 and 20 per cent which is not satisfactory and it is worrying the funding agency,” he said.
For this reason, he said, the WISP officials were informed that if they were unable to put things in order they should stop work on minor and distributary canals.
Sida managing director Ehsan Leghari said he could not believe that mission officials had hinted at stopping funding for the project’s B2 component.
But, he said, the project director would be in a better position to comment.
WISP project director Zahid Junejo was not available for comments.
“The project has been delayed by two and a half years. Allocations for it were released in June which marks closure of the fiscal year. Hopefully, Sindh government will release funds soon,” Mr Leghari said.
He blamed the 2010 floods and 2011 rains for the delay and said some social issues also hampered works. “The project which was scheduled to complete in 2013 will now be completed in 2014,” he added.