ISLAMABAD - Although the government is likely to allow an increase of 15 to 17 percent in the Public Sector Development Programme’s (PSDP) budget for the fiscal year 2016-17, however the concerned department has been asked to make no increase in the budget for the water sector, it was learnt reliably here on Sunday.

“We have been told there will be no increase in the monetary allocations for the water sector in the PSDP for the FY 2016-17, which currently stands at Rs31.9 billion,” a senior government official told The Nation.

“The federal government may also transfer the task of conserving water to the provinces during the next fiscal year,” the source said, adding, “It is a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment; therefore they should take care of it. However, the federal government will pay for the liabilities,” the official added.

It is pertinent to mention here that the government had also decreased allocation for the water sector, for the fiscal year 2015-16, by 27 per cent.

The official said it seemed as if the water resource development was not the priority for the present government. “However, a chunk of power sector funds for the ongoing Bhasha, Dasu and Tarbela 4th extension projects will be part of the PSDP,” he clarified. He further said that water sector allocations in the PSDP, for the FY 2014-15, were Rs43.7 billion against the demand for Rs120 billion.

“However, the government only provided Rs31.9 billion; 27 percent less than that of the preceding fiscal year,” the official added.

“We were expecting an increase in the budget for the water sector for the next financial year; at least to the level of 2014-15, but it will stay the same as there will be no increase,” the official added.

The official warned that if the authorities didn’t make proper planning in the water sector, the country, being a water deficient country, would face bigger crisis than the power shortage. He added that water projects were becoming a low priority for the present government.

“I am afraid that if this trend continues, within few next years the water wing of the Planning Commission will be closed down,” the official said.

“The next decade is crucial for us in terms of water shortage, and if the government does not take shrewd and prompt decisions today, we will regret it tomorrow,” the official cautioned.

“There is no doubt that the government doesn’t have funds to make big reservoirs, but it has also left small dams to the provinces,” he elaborated. The official further told The Nation that PSDP for the fiscal 2015-16 was Rs580 billion.

“Rs580 billion will be enhanced to Rs 675 billion,” the official informed. “But the increase will most likely go to the infrastructure and energy projects, under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),” he added.

“The government has strictly told the authorities to avoid including the projects related to making new buildings in health and education sectors in the PSDP 2016-17, and concentrate mainly on fulfilling basic necessities of life,” the official said.

“The government has also directed to finish the projects, where 70 percent work has been completed, and not to include the sick projects initiated before 2010 in the coming PSDP,” the official concluded.