ISLAMABAD - President Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday advised the government to engage experts and consultants for undertaking a study on the setting up of Inland Water Transport Authority (IWTA) to plan and develop an inland water transportation system on River Indus. The Presidential advice was given during briefing in the Presidency on a host of mega development issues and projects. The meeting was attended by Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Minister for Food and Agriculture; Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Minister for Water & Power; Baber Khan Ghauri, Minister for Ports & Shipping; M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President; Sardar Aseff Ahmed Ali, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission; Dr. Zafar Altaf, Chairmran PARC; Shakeel Durrani, Chairman WAPDA; Naeem Sarfraz, Chairman, Task Force on Maritime Inland Water Transportation; Kamal Majidullah, SAPM on Water and Agriculture and Secretaries and senior officials of different ministries. Briefing the media on the meeting Spokesperson to the President former Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the two-hour long meeting mulled over issues ranging from building small and medium dams, development of hybrid seeds to multiply agricultural produce and developing a navigation route on the river Indus system. Farhatullah Babar said that the President directed that the report on the setting up of Indus Water Transport Authority be completed within 3 months. The setting up of the Authority should be given legislative cover rather than basing it on an executive order, the President said. The President said that water transportation was the least expensive mode for transporting heavy commodities. Pakistan must not let go waste the huge economic potential of inland water transportation system, the President said. The President also advised that a Committee comprising Chairman Task Force Maritime Industry, Chairman WAPDA, and a representative each of Ports and Shipping and NESPAK be formed to oversee the preparation of report within the stipulated time period. Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying The comprehensive network of rivers and canals in Pakistan has been awaiting development for an efficient inland water transportation system in the country which should no longer be delayed. The President said that the Indus had historically served as a navigation route of the area and there was need to revive its pristine historical role for the economic uplift of the country. At a time when fuel costs were going up, population was expanding and environment degrading cheap mode of bulk transportation held the key to sustainable economic development, he said. Chairman WAPDA Shakeel Durrani briefed the meeting on the proposed project of building small and medium size dams in two phases in the country. He said that in phase 1 of the project 13 dams in all the four provinces would be built including five in Balochistan, four in Sindh and two each in Frontier and Punjab. Chairman WAPDA informed the meeting that land acquisition for the dams will start from next month. The provincial government would develop state land under the command area of the dams with the technical assistance of PARC for installation of sprinkle irrigation system for high value crops. As for financing the dam 2.5 billion rupees were available in the current years PSDP and an MOU signed with China to provide 700 million dollars over the next four years. Some money would also be raised from the end users and through bridge financing. Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying The state land in the command areas will be allotted to the women to empower them as part of our policy envisioned by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. The President said that issuance of Benazir Income Support Program cards for the women followed by allotting to them the state land in command areas of these dams were moves to empower the women of Pakistan. The President gave the deadline of October this year for the ground breaking of the project of small and medium dams, the Spokesperson said. Chairman PARC Dr Zafar Altaf gave a detailed presentation of hybrid seed development of wheat, cotton and rice with the Chinese assistance. He said that the development of high yielding and disease resistant rice hybrid seed was going on. He said that for the first time China had shared with the outside world elite genetic resources. The President asked the agricultural ministry and PARC to develop plans for helping the small, marginal and fragile farmers, the Spokesperson said.