ISLAMABAD - The Planning Commission has termed the PC-I of Sea Intrusion Project, prepared by the Ministry Of Science And Technology, unfeasible and said that the project cannot helpful in long term in curbing issue of land erosion in the coastal areas of Sindh and Baluchistan, it is learnt reliably here.

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"Current PC-I of Sea Intrusion Project aims at an academic study of seawater intrusion. It does not account for formulation of policy which can be helpful in long term in curbing issue of seawater intrusion," said the Planning Commission in its comments on the PC-I of the project of monitoring the sea water intrusion, sea level rise, Coastal Erosion and land Subsidence along Sindh and Baluchistan Coast, revealed by the official documents available with The Nation.

The sponsoring agency of the project is Ministry of Science and Technology while National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) is the executing agency.

The project will be jointly implemented by NIO, Suparco, Pakistan Council of Water Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) and Pakistan Navy Hydrography Department (PNHD).

The project will cost Rs650.056 million and will be completed in five years. The project will be 100 percent funded by federal government.  In PSDP 2017-18 Rs50 million are allocated for the project. The project will have an annual operational cost of Rs51.3 million.

Ironically the project was received by the Ministry of Planning in August 2017, however due to non serious attitude of the authorities the project has yet to get the required approval.

As per the detail of the project, seawater intrusion is a phenomenon is which seawater migrates inland into the fresh ground water aquifer near the coast. This can affect the suitability of groundwater for drinking, livestock and irrigation. Seawater intrusion into drinking water well can make the taste unpalatable to humans and livestock, making it unsuitable for irrigation as elevated levels of sodium and cholaride can reduce crop production.

In this project oceanographic/remote sensing and hydrographic datasets like sea surface temperature ,tidal heights, directional wave height and period, seawater current speed and direction, shoreline erosion rate, float tracking, river discharge data and coastal water depth data will be collected.

These datasets will be used for the identification of potential zones of sea level rise and seawater intrusion along Sindh and Baluchistan coastal cities.

Tidal observation lab will be used to handle analyze and manage these collected datasets .

The objectives of the study includes to investigate sweater intrusion along coastal zones of Pakistan through scientific observations to assess rate of sea level rise and land subsidence, to find out causes of erosion through scientific observation and relevant data for assessing its impacts on coastal areas.

To develop mitigation strategy for countering sea water intrusion and coastal erosion.

In its comments the planning commission stated that preliminary examination of the project proposal has been carried out and it was found that project is not suitable to purpose. In its current form, PC-I aims at an academic study of seawater intrusion. It does not account for formulation of policy which can be helpful in long term in curbing issue of seawater intrusion.

The planning commission further said that four organisations i.e. National Institute of Oceanographu, Suparco, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources(PCRWR) and Pakistan Navy Hydrographic Department have been identified as executing agencies. It was originally envisioned that project will be executed by Ministry of Science and Technology and all these four organizations can help the ministry in achieving the targets.

Similarly a strong PMU is required for this kind of project which can report to cabinet, standing committee and Prime Minister. Contrarily no PMU has been established/proposed. This may seriously affect the implementation of project and achieving target, the planning commission observed.

Regarding the social and environmental aspects of the project the economic appraisal the planning said that the project may prone to multiple risks related to data governance.

Instead of being policy oriented, the project is like an academic research venture. It can offer highly promising outcome but that would be beneficial for research only and not from policy standpoint to resolve the issue at a larger scale in a holistic manner.

Cost rationalization exercise can only be carried out once PMU is proposed and cost break up is provided. Therefore, water resource section is not in a position to comment whether project is viable or not in view of intended objectives.

It is pertinent to mention here that as per the reports of international organisation if the current trend of sea intrusion continued Badin and Thatta will be submerged by 2050 while Karachi will be drowned by 2070.