The paper trail of approvals
Once the Sindh government gave the go-ahead to the Karachi water board in 2002-03 it had to look for someone to study different ways to bring more water to the city from Kinjhar Lake. It put out the tender call and by 2005 accepted Osmani & Co’s offer to do the job for Rs33m. The water board’s managing director or head at the time, Brig. Iftikhar Haider, signed off on the contract.
Osmani took two years roughly to study different routes. It had a proposal (the name of the document was detailed feasibility study) ready by 2007. Osmani gave the water board nine routes to choose from. It said that it found route 8 to be the most economical. The water board signed off on route 8 in 2007.
This was verified and approved by:
They would break K-IV into phases and one by one dig three canals along route 8. The first canal would carry 260mgd of water, then they would dig another canal (260mgd) and a baby canal that would carry 130mgd of water. The idea was to transport a total of 650mgd (or 1,200 cusecs) of water to Karachi eventually.
Just a word about this whole mgd business. The peril of writing about water is that you risk alienating a perfectly good reader by studding the story with acronyms (Nespak) and initialisms (FWO) and measurements that no one really intuitively grasps (mgd, cusecs). Most people can’t imagine an mgd. If you throw all this math and symbol at the reader they are quite understandably put off. Suffice it to say that all you need to imagine is three canals that carry a lot of water.
So we return to the planning paperwork. The design for the first 260mgd canal that Osmani estimated would cost Rs29b to build was ready by 2011. The CDWP revised it downward to Rs25b. The PC-I was prepared, checked, verified and countersigned by:
Three years later, by 2014, Islamabad (Ecnec) had approved this plan and said that the Sindh government and the federal government would split the cost down the middle.
Such big projects go to Islamabad where several institutions scrutinise them before giving the green signal. K-IV went through this routine process and was eventually approved by those teams (the PDWP, CDWP and ECNEC). By 2014 they all said that the water board could go ahead and commission someone to build it.
By 2016, the Sindh government asked the Frontier Works Organisation to build K-IV based on Osmani’s design but at the FWO said that it thought it was cost Rs42b and it couldn’t do the job in Rs25b. By this time, in their infinite wisdom, the powers that be decided to split K-IV into two parts. They would build the canal first for Rs18b and then the other infrastructure later on. So the bridges, staff colonies, roads, pumping houses, filter plants, power plant was left for later.
The FWO started building K-IV and had to get it done in two years.
Then there was a major change in Sindh. In 2016, Qaim Ali Shah was replaced by Murad Ali Shah as chief minister. Murad Ali Shah is not only a civil and structural engineer from NED and Stanford, but he served as irrigation minister during the 2010 floods and was an engineer with Wapda and the Hyderabad Development Authority. If anyone knew water, it was him. This is when it starts to get interesting.
By the end of 2018, a big piece of news surfaced that the chief minister has gone to visit K-IV and none other than the FWO’s director-general Maj Gen Inam Haider Malik and FWO Commanding Officer Lt Col Usman Aftab has given him a briefing. Suggestions were made and the FWO told the chief minister what it believed were shortcomings in K-IV.
A few months after this briefing, the chief minister dropped a bombshell. It was mid-2019. The Sindh government was asking Nespak to check the design of K-IV and the FWO was proposing a change in the canal design to speed up work. The FWO was saying, in essence, we’ve dug the first canal to carry 260mgd of water to Karachi, but what if we just dig a little more since we’re already here and widen that one to carry the full 650mgd.
And so, seventeen years after K-IV was envisioned, the state of affairs was such that they were now asking an outside consultant to vet or check the design and were contemplating a proposal to make a major change in the way they were building the canal.
You could be forgiven for asking two simple questions: Wasn’t the design and route choice checked much earlier? And is this new idea a good one?
To read the next article of the series on Karachi’s K-IV water project, click on the image below