KARACHI - Sindh government has forwarded a summary to the federal government to build a new small dam for irrigation near Thattha and Badin districts. The Lai Barani Dam project involving an estimated cost of Rs3.986 billion had been sent to the Planning Commission of Pakistan for approval, sources told The Nation. The Planning Commission would take up the project in the upcoming meeting of the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) having representation from the federal and the provincial governments, sources said. After the National Economic Council (NEC) and Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC), the CDWP is the third high-level economic forum of the government that gives initial approval of the project. An official of the Sindh Planning and Development Department said the feasibility report of the Lai Barani Dam was ready and now the provincial government was looking for approval from the federal government. Sources said that the provincial government intends to build 30 small dams in the province to store water for irrigation. The provincial government has taken this decision on the advice of President Asif Ali Zardari. During recent meetings with the chief minister Sindh and other members of the Sindh cabinet, Zardari has asked them to build dams to overcome the water shortage and to bring the barren land under cultivation, said an official of Sindh government. Zardari asked the Sindh government to allocate funds in the coming financial year to conduct feasibility studies of new dams. Additional Chief Secretary Planning and Development Department of Sindh Nazar Muhammad Mehr said that more than 30 locations had already been identified in Larkana, Dadu and Badin districts of Sindh, where small dams could be constructed. He pointed out that the feasibility studies for the construction of four small dams in Dadu, Larkana and Jamshoro districts had already been completed by the Sindh Irrigation Department. But the construction of these irrigation dams could not be undertaken due to the non-availability of funds, he said. Sources said that 0.5 million acres of barren land could be brought under cultivation after the construction of 30 to 33 dams in the province. He pointed out that this barren land had been identified in those areas where new water reservoirs could be built. The productivity of crops and income of the farmers would also improve after the construction of new dams and availability of water for irrigation, he added. A senior official of Finance Department said that in the coming financial year the provincial government could allocate Rs3-4 billion to carry out feasibility studies of the new water reservoirs in the province. He said that the work on the new dams could be initiated in different phases and each year 5-6 new dams could be included in the annual development plan of Sindh government. He said that the government was giving top priority to the construction of water reservoirs to purge water shortage and to enhance the agricultural production. He asserted that every year the Sindh faces 25-35 per cent shortfall in its share of water. In the Water Apportionment Accord 1991 Sindh had been allocated 42 billion cubic meters share of water, but the province rarely gets its full share because of water shortage. He said that the federal government had announced the construction of Bhasha Dam, but it would take seven years to complete, once work on it started. In other words the country would continue to face shortage of irrigation water at least for another decade that would cause massive losses to the agriculture sector, he added.