ISLAMABAD - The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Tuesday approved three development projects including Kachhi Canal project, which cost has been enhanced to Rs80.5 billion from initial cost of Rs31.2 billion.

The projects were approved in a meeting chaired by Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar. Federal Minister for Planning and Development Prof Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Food Security Sikandar Hayat Bosan, provincial ministers and senior officials of federal and provincial governments also attended the meeting.

The government in 2003 had approved the project at a cost of Rs31.2 billion for irrigating 713,000 acres of land in Balochistan. However, the project suffered since the beginning, as its cost increased twice. The government first revised the cost to Rs57.6 billion in December 2013. However, the ECENC yesterday gave approval for Kachhi canal project (phase-I) at a cost of Rs80,352 million. The project aims at development of water and land resources within the less developed areas of Balochistan covering districts of Dera Bugti, Naseerabad, Bolan, Kachhi and Jhal Magsi. Kachhi canal off takes at Taunsa Barrage from river Indus with peak discharge of 6,000 cusecs and will ultimately irrigate an area of 713,000 acres.

Under Phase-I of the project, 72,000 acres would be irrigated. The project will boost the agriculture production of food grain, fiber and oilseeds. It will also facilitate availability of potable drinking water. The ECNEC considered and approved the project for detailed design and construction of Pehur high level canal extension, Swabi at a cost of Rs10,156.000 million which also includes Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan of $86.29 million. The project is an extension to the command area of the Pehur high level canal and draws its supplies through Gandaf Tunnel directly, which conveys irrigation water from Tarbela Dam reservoir.The project will bring about 8,727 ha (1316 ha in Janda Boka and 7411 ha in Indus – Amber area) of rain fed land under irrigated agriculture. The project will enhance irrigated area and ensure food security due to increase in crop production over the next decade in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The ECNEC also accorded approval for conversion of existing 220 KV sub- stations at Bandd Road, Kalashah Kaku, Ravi and Nishatabad (distt Lahore and Faisalabad) to GIS technology at a cost of Rs5,683.87 million. Under the project conversion of existing 220 KV sub-stations from air insulated substations (AIS) to Gas Insulated sub-stations (GIS) will be undertaken. The GIS substations will improve efficiency and reliability of the system and result in reduction of erosion and deterioration thereby cutting down maintenance costs and frequent tripping. The power flow will also increase by 684 MW in the system. The projects related to Right Bank Outfall Drainage were deferred on the request of the government of Sindh to allow them time to firm up views on their contribution for RBOD-II, as per the financing plan.