LAHORE   -  Construction work on the first-ever Surface Water Treatment Plant in Lahore is most likely to begin next year amid uproar by Manawan residents who want their reservations to be addressed before acquisition of land for the project.

According to informed sources, Surface Water Treatment Plant in Lahore would discourage use of tube wells which are extracting groundwater on a daily basis, making the groundwater level go down with every passing day.

Under this project, 100 cusec water from Bambawali-Ravi-Bedian (BRB) canal would be treated for 1.4 million people in Manawa urban area. Once the plant becomes functional, around 30 tube wells in the area will stop pumping out groundwater except for the period when canals are closed for de-silting. The project will be completed in three years.

Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) and the Irrigation Department are jointly executing the project though the former has been assigned a lead role in the whole process. It will be completed at an estimated cost of Rs19.5 billion. The treatment and water supply would be carried out by Wasa while the Irrigation Department will dig in around three kilometre channel from BRB canal at Behni Road that will supply canal water to the Surface Water Treatment Plant. Wasa would execute Rs15 billion component of this project while Irrigation Department will be given Rs 4.5 billion for its part of the scheme.

The project would fulfil the 100 cusec water demand in the area, which is the 10 percent of total 1000 cusec demand of entire Lahore city. 

“Due to high water extraction and less water infiltration the water balance has been deteriorating over the years and the authorities started looking for alternative water availability for the citizens,” Wasa MD Syed Zahid Aziz informed The Nation.

He also informed that in order to stop further decrease in the ground water level, a number of consultants including Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had recommended that the city must go for alternative sources of water treatment like surface water from Lahore’s BRB canal.  

He said that PC-1 of the project was ready but they were awaiting approval from Central Development Working Party (CDWP, a federal department whose nod is mandatory for all foreign-funded projects.

It may be recalled here that Japanese JAICA consultation had recommended the project in 2010 and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has agreed to give Rs 19.5 billion loan to the government. 

 After the competition of project the treated water would be supplied to residents of Shadi Pura, Bhaghban Pura, Fateh Garh and Mustafabad areas in Manawan.

The Wasa managing director said that all tube wells would stop pumping out water in the vicinity of project area that would save groundwater. “We have a plan to stop 300 tube wells out of total 600 in the city by 2025 to save groundwater,” he said.

On the other hand, residents of villages Ganje Sindhu, Natt and Bahseen have expressed their reservations over feasibility of the project to be executed in areas surrounded by small industry and residential areas.  

Also, they have shown concerned over land acquisition of over 300 acres of land which they believe is almost ten times more than the land needed for the project. This raises questions about the real purpose of the acquisition of land, they say.

Residents claimed that no consultation was made with them and excessively secretive methods were used to acquire their land. 

Wasa Director Planning and Design Zeshan Bilal justified the acquisition of 300 acres of land saying that it was done due to possible expansion in the project in future. He said all the financial matters would be settled with the residents as per the law.