ISLAMABAD - The groundbreaking of the much-awaited Chashma Right Bank Canal (CRBC) project will take place by the mid of this year, it has been reliably learnt.

The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will forward the PC-I of the project to the Ministry of Planning this month for the Central Development Working Party (CDWP), and the project will be initiated by June or July, sources told The Nation here on Tuesday.

The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) will recommend the project for the approval of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC), as the project is more than Rs3 billion, which is over and above the domain of the CDWP’s approval.

The project was first conceived in 2006 with the estimated cost of around Rs30 billion. However, due to some controversies, the project was delayed for about 10 years. As per the new estimation, the cost of the project has reached Rs120 billion.

The objective of the project is to provide 1.187 million acre feet (MAF) of water for perennial irrigation of about 300,000 acres of land in the southern districts of KP. The federal government has agreed in its meeting on February 25, 2016, to provide 65 percent, while the province will pay 35 percent of the financing for the CRBC project.

The Council of Common Interest (CCI) has already approved the decision that the federal government will fund 65 percent of the total cost of Chashma Right Bank Canal (CRBC). The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was seeking amendment to the water-sharing accord, so it could get payment of about Rs120 billion as compensation for under-utilisation of its water share, because of lack of infrastructure.

According to the KP government claim, its share had been consumed by Punjab and Sindh for two decades (1992-2013). Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s demand for the payment of Rs120 billion in compensation was rejected by IRSA, Punjab, and Sindh.

The KP government had demanded the amendment in the act for treating water quotas as saleable commodity. As per the KP estimates, it has been given 8.78 million acre feet (MAF) share from 117.35 MAF water of the Indus river system under the 1991 Water Apportionment Accord but it could utilise a maximum 5.78 MAF due to infrastructure constraints, which is 34 percent less than its share.

The water accord 1992 guaranteed the existing usages (of 1977-1982) for all the provinces, 54.52 MAF for Punjab, 43.53 MAF for Sindh, 3.07 MAF for KP and 1.63 MAF for Balochistan, making the total to 102.75 MAF. However, due to lack of irrigation infrastructure, KP has been unable to utilise its full share of water and it had been demanding construction of Chashma Right Bank Lift Irrigation Canal (CRBC) project by the federal government.

Instead of amending the Irsa Act 1992, the federal government has decided to help KP to develop infrastructure to utilise its full share of water. The government of KP will execute the project; however some political leaders from KP are demanding of the federal government that the provincial government’s capacity is too low and the centre should ask the Wapda to execute the project, the source said. “Execution of the project by the provincial government means that it will get delayed,” the source added.