ISLAMABAD - The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has returned the PC-I of the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD-II) project to Central Development Working Party (CDWP) for evolving a new funding mechanism for the project, after the Sindh government has refused to pay its share of Rs14 billion.

“For the resolution of funding issue for the RBOD-II, the federal government has invited the Sindh government twice for the meeting, to resolve the issue of Sindh share in the project, but nobody come for the meeting and therefore the issue was not resolved,” official sources told The Nation here on Tuesday. On April 6, the Federal Minister for Planning Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal has convened a meeting with the Sindh government officials to resolve the issue of the provincial share for the RBOD-II. The federal and Sindh governments are still at odds as the province has refused to pay its share of Rs14 billion for the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD-II) project. The RBOD projects are aimed at draining the effluent water from Balochistan and Sindh in the Arabian Sea to protect contamination of Manchar Lake.

The minister, on the request of Sindh P&D Board chairman, had convened a meeting with the Sindh government. The meeting was convened on April 6 so as to reach to a consensus towards financing mechanism of RBOD-II project, the source said. The meeting was postponed on the request of the Sindh government till April 11. On April 11, again the Sindh government representative didn’t show up for the meeting. Resultantly the summary was moved to the ECNEC meeting, held on April 12, without the consensus with the provincial government, the source added. The ECNEC had returned the summary to the CDWP to evolve a new funding mechanism , the source said.

In a meeting held in February, the Sindh chief secretary has agreed that the province will pay its share of Rs14 billion for flood protection of the RBOD-II project, the source said. However, later the provincial government backed out from its commitment, the source added.

The completion of RBOD-II project is necessary for the protection of Manchar Lake. The Supreme Court in its suo motu proceedings regarding the growing level of contamination in Manchar Lake and the deprivation of the livelihood of the fishermen has directed both the central and provincial government to resolve the issue.

Last month, the Supreme Court, in a suo motu case concerning Manchar lake contamination due to effluents from the RBOD, has directed the federal and provincial governments to interact on the issue of completing the RBOD project to protect Manchar Lake from contamination, warning that the court could summon the prime minister and the chief minister if the issue was not resolved.

Currently, there are three projects in the implementation stage for carrying Balochistan and Sindh disposal into sea. The completion deadline of the RBOD-I, II and III projects was also increased for the fourth time and will be simultaneously completed by 2019.

The first leg of the project is RBOD-III, which will carry Balochistan and Sindh effluent disposal. The project is located in Nasirabad, Jaffarabad districts of Balochistan and Kambar, Shahdad Kot districts of Sindh. The second leg is RBOD-I located in Nara desert, district Ghotki and Sukkur, Sindh, which will be used for the disposal of effluent from the Right Bank Sukkur and Guddu Barrage commands area in Sindh. Similarly, RBOD-II drain will be connected to RBOD-I at Sehwan and will carry the effluent direct to sea at Gharo.

The project of 273 kilometres long RBOD-II was initiated in 2001 at the estimated cost of Rs14 billion. The project was supposed to be completed in 2006; however, it was delayed. The estimated cost was also upward revised to Rs29 billion in 2005 and the completion target was extended to 2008 and then 2014. Now once again the cost was upward revised to Rs61.985 billion and the completion target was transferred to 2019.

It is pertinent to mention here that in the 2nd revised PC-I, the RBOD-II project cost was revised to Rs61.985 billion. The RBOD-II project is located in Jamshoro and Thatta districts of Sindh and is being considered vital for rehabilitation of Manchar, Asia’s largest fresh water lake, which receives contaminated water of the RBOD-I. As per the new schedule provided by the technical subcommittee, during the next three years, Rs3,000 million are required for RBOD-I, Rs4,000 million for RBOD-III and Rs19,713 million for RBOD-II.

During current fiscal year, Rs5 billion will be spend on the RBOD-II against the PSDP allocation of Rs2 billion. Similarly, as per schedule Rs1.8 billion are required for the RBOD-I and III during the current fiscal year against the PSDP allocation of Rs2.8 billion.

The sub-committee also recommended that the government of Sindh may also make timely releases of Rs14 billion required for completion of flood protection works as part of RBOD-II project to ensure that work done on the project with the federal government funding is not affected during the flood season.