The Sindh government has refused to pay its share of Rs14 billion for the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD-II) project. The Sindh government made a commitment and then backed out. The federal government insists that after the devolution of power to provinces, it was Sindh’s responsibility to fund the flood protection part of the 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. If the RBOD-II project is not completed on time, the flora and fauna of Manchar Lake will be completely wiped out. The ultimate damage is to the ecology of the area, and another step towards the slow desertification of Sindh. The Supreme Court has already initiated suo motu proceedings regarding the growing level of contamination in Manchar Lake and the deprivation of the livelihood of the fishermen. The timely completion of RBOD is productive for Sindh as it would save 4.32 million acres of land from water-logging and salinity.

While the amount is large, and will be a burden on the Sindh government to pay, the project must be completed. The project must be seen as an investment to maintain the local economies around the area, and there are clear long-term economic and environmental benefits. If taxpayer money has to be spent, the ROBD is a worthy cause.

The federal government has agreed to divert Rs3 billion to the RBOD-II during the current financial year and must make sure that the some deal is struck with the Sindh government so that the project does not fall apart.

The ecological change that Sindh and the Indus River delta are going through threaten our way of life. We are already a water scare country, and by mid-century, will not have enough water to sustain our population. State officials need to stop striking down programs for environmental rehabilitation if they want to see their future generations survive.