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Checking K-IV’s design

Inquiries uncovered major flaws 12 years later

SAMAA | and - Posted: Oct 25, 2019 | Last Updated: 2 years ago
SAMAA | and
Posted: Oct 25, 2019 | Last Updated: 2 years ago
Checking K-IV’s design

By October we had in our hands a draft of independent consultant Nespak’s assessment of K-IV’s design. It confirmed much of what we had gleaned.

When the FWO was given the job in 2016, it had to get the design checked within three months before starting construction. (This is actually never the contractor’s job, so it is a mystery why Osmani put this in the fine print). The FWO gave an initial report in 2017, flagging major concerns. It asked for but never received documents from Osmani so that it could get the design vetted. And so construction began without anyone checking if what they were building really was sound.

It was only when the delays became intolerable that the Sindh government paid Nespak Rs132m to look under the hood. Nespak’s findings largely matched those of an investigation the Sindh government had commissioned on its own by Aijaz Ahmed Mahesar, a secretary.

Work on K-IV was suspended in November 2018.

The inquiry and third-party vetting reports go into excruciating detail on every aspect of K-IV.

“[I]t is concluded that K-IV was badly planned since its inception,” wrote Mahesar, “and utter negligence in discharging the duty was also observed at various levels.” As a result, it is now going to cost us billions more to get done.

He assigned blame and responsibility on Osmani that did not get the job done in time, did not get the foreign technical expert as agreed, made a faulty PC-I and left major components missing. They “failed to deliver as effective Design and Supervision consultant”.

Mahesar pointed out terrible conflicts of interest: Osmani prepared the PC-II (feasibility and design of K-IV) and was “rehired” to review its own work. Rehiring the consultant that prepared the feasibility for the PC-I was a conflict of interest. “This needs to be further investigated as to why and under what circumstances the same consultant was repeatedly hired, ignoring conflict of interest,” he says. 

The inquiry says that the planning documents should have included all parts of the K-IV. Not drop bits and pieces along the way. Mahesar also found that Osmani had changed the route and the exit from Kinjhar without telling everyone. In fact, project director Saleem Siddiqui had caught this in 2015 and told Osmani that they did not have the authority to change the PC-I and PC-II once the Sindh and federal governments had approved it. You couldn’t tinker with the design. “The adjusted/new route of K-IV submitted … November 7, 2015 is hereby rejected and returned,” he wrote on November 12.  

Mahesar also found that other routes could have worked and been cheaper, because they needed less pumping.

The current project director, Assad Zamin, said the same: “This route is a difficult route in terms of design. This route passes through very difficult terrain. It is rocky, there are hills, at the start you have two-stage pumping, at RD6 and RD28. You’ve kept pumping at two spots.”

Nespak’s found that Osmani did not explore using Haleji and Hadero lakes as it had been asked. It only studied the land for the final route and not the eight others. Mahesar adds that no proper discussion was held and this omission of the lakes was never approved.

Osmani did not examine the capacity of the existing system. Technical investigations were missing, as were detailed calculations on the cost to operate and maintain different routes to “justify” the route that was selected. 

Nespak said that the route Osmani selected and which KWSB signed off on, was rugged and passed through deep dips that would need to be filled and high peaks that would have to be razed or cut to level the ground for a canal. 

Route 8 also crossed many big streams, making it risky as high sections (embankments) could suffer breaches or breaks or be eroded by rainfall. The rains could bring down debris as well that would make the canal unstable. Animals could burrow into its slopes. Flooding could damage the siphons and aqueducts which were already vulnerable because their foundations were not placed below the scour level.

Scour is when the foundations or legs of a bridge pier are eroded by sediment that is transported through water it stands in. Imagine standing at the beach in the water up to your ankles. The waves come in and suck sand away and pull it back from your feet. That’s kind of like scour. Scour is the effect of gushing water. The torrents of water coming down from a hill, especially, flow with speed and erode soil along the way. If it passes structures or earthen embankments, the erosion removes the earth cover, which is compacted to support concrete structures (see photo above). 

Nespak also felt that if the K-IV was built in a risky route that would require constant chowkidari, that would raise the cost of operating it. 

Osmani’s reasons for rejecting other routes was not part of the study or properly discussed. “We are of the view that the route following the existing Kinjhar Gujjo canal is passing through relatively plain area and would have afforded minimal fills and avoided deep cuts, thus reducing the capital and operational costs of the project. Rejection of such an option on the flimsy reasons… is not justified,” said Mahesar’s report.

A Nespak drawing showing how water would flow down the Kirthar range and cross K-IV. Because this route was chosen the design would need pathways to allow the rainwater to cross the canal without disrupting it.

Route 8 is at the bottom of the Kirthar mountain range which, when it rains will get torrents of water flowing down them. This water would affect K-IV. In fact, Nespak found that the monsoon rains from July 29 to 31 did do damage.

Nespak argued that the cross-drainage should have been canal aqueducts and not culverts (tunnels carrying the water under the roads). It said it got designs for only 56 culverts out of the 64 being constructed along K-IV.  

The layers of strata beneath the surface, if you bore down, are from the Eocene age (roughly 56 million years ago) and have bands of limestone, shale, sandstone among others which, Nespak noted can be vulnerable to moisture and can swell and disintegrate. Studying the soil and deeper layers is essential to ensure the canal you build on top, and the bridges and siphons etc. are a load the earth can take. The Nespak report goes into details about concerns here too for this route. For that matter, it noted that seismic studies had not been done. Nespak says that the highly brecciated or sharply fragmented limestone seems to indicate tectonic deformation, raising alarm bells the land is sitting on a fault line. In the very least it has to be investigated.

In other places the Nespak report points out simple engineering code violations such as No. 3 bars are not permissible as per “ACI-350R-06” requirements.  

Nespak highlighted the impossible timelines. The costs were drawn up in 2010 but work started in 2016 by which time inflation would have driven prices of materials and labour up. Plus, the quantities of major items had gone up: earthwork, steel, concrete. 

Aside from the design, Nespak pointed out what the FWO had struggled with: the plan for all the infrastructure in addition to the canal was missing: the power houses, connections to the existing KWSB network, staff colonies, roads, bridges, reservoirs, filtration plants.

It was a blessing that heavy monsoon rains hit Karachi in July and August to test whatever had been built of K-IV. The channel was breached in many locations, writes Nespak. The whole area was inaccessible during flooding, the katcha tracks were washed away.

To read the next article of the series on Karachi’s K-IV water project, click on the image below

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