Pressure is mounting on the Sindh government to complete the K-IV water supply system for Karachi—a project that was started 18 years ago but is nowhere near completion.
The most recent development is that a technical committee of the government, KWSB and academics met for a fifth time today (Tuesday, Jan 28) to agree on a way forward with this mammoth project. While they have not necessarily reached a conclusion, when they do, they will tell the chief minister what they recommend. Another meeting is scheduled Wednesday.
What is K-IV
If you don’t know what K-IV is, it is hardly surprising. The project was started in 2002 but has not been completed by 2020. If it had been up and running on time, chances are you would have had an improved water supply at home no matter where you lived in Karachi.
K-IV is a fourth open-air canal built since Partition that was supposed to bring extra supplies of water from Kinjhar Lake to serve the city. The canal was designed by Osmani & Co Ltd. and the KWSB and Sindh government asked the Frontier Works Organisation to build it.
What is the govt doing
When the canal was nowhere near being finished by 2019, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah asked engineering firm Nespak to check what was going wrong. Nespak came back with a stinker of a report card: Osmani’s design had major problems.
The chief minister then tasked a technical committee with going through Nespak’s report and recommending what should be done.
Samaa Digital has acquired an unsigned draft of a report by the technical committee detailing discussions from three of its meetings. The draft is a raw but honest documentation of the closed-door discussions at the Sindh Secretariat as the committee grappled with assessing the design. Local Government Secretary Roshan Ali Shaikh chaired the meetings, which took place or were scheduled for Dec 23, 30, 31 and Jan 1.
The first meeting
At the first meeting, the committee members realised that they will not be able to reach a conclusion about how to get K-IV done by “simply going through” the Nespak review of Osmani’s original design because of the “incapacity of the participants” on these matters.
This point is likely to get bleached out of the final report. But in all honesty, it goes to the heart of the K-IV conundrum: high level scientific experts are needed. Of course, the technical committee experts are hardly unqualified people. They are big names: KWSB MD Asadullah Khan, who is an engineer himself, Commander of the Corps Engineer at 5 Corp Brig Qazi Nasir Mehmood, Preetam Das, who is the chief engineer of the Irrigation department, Khuram Shahzad, a superintending engineer with K-IV, Mehran University’s Dr Kamran Ansari, NED University’s Dr Shafqat Ejaz, E-in-C Branch of GHQ’s Dr Nawaz Ali and FWO consultant Brig. Dr Nasrullah Abeer. But even they looked at Nespak and Osmani’s reports and designs and felt that simply going through them would not yield answers.
To make matters worse, Osmani has contested the flaws Nespak has pointed out. The technical committee draft report noted that the disagreements are more suited to specialists in hydro structures, hydraulics, hydrology, geotechnical investigations.
“It would be impractical for the committee to analyze or scrutinise the design and design review with limited or no relevant experience on designing,” the draft said.
The next option was clear. The technical committee invited both Osmani and Nespak to give presentations.
The second and third meetings
The second meeting was scheduled for Dec 30 but could not happen because Nespak and FWO representatives could not make it.
The third meeting took place on Dec 31. It was here that Transparency International’s Adil Jilani brought up a point that it was a conflict of interest for Nespak to be appointed to review Osmani’s K-IV design as it had competed to get the contract in the first place. This was against SPPR rules, he said.
Nespak went ahead with its presentation to list all the problems it had discovered when it reviewed Osmani’s design and checked the work on the ground. It’s biggest point was that the route Osmani had selected for K-IV was risky and costly. Nespak added that its assessment was final and it would not consider removing any part.
For its part, Osmani then said it disagreed with Nespak. In fact, as Jillani said, even Osmani felt that appointing Nespak to check its work was a conflict of interest. And Osmani “categorically refused” to accept Nespak’s statements.
“During both the presentations the atmosphere was very tense,” said the technical committee report, “and accusatory remarks from both the consultants were observed.” Roshan Ali Shaikh had to intervene many times. “Both the consultants were stubborn in their stance and were reluctant to admit or accommodate the other point of view.”
The third meeting on Dec 1 did not go much better. Nespak said that its teams had been unable to reach certain parts of K-IV after the monsoon rains because of the damage to structures. Osmani disagreed.
The two parties continued to spar over silt deposits, cross drainage structures, culverts, stone pitching, possible soil erosion, the design of the opening of K-IV.
“Like previous meeting the attitude of both the consultants towards each other was hard and were not ready to accept any recommendations or suggestions,” said the draft report.
In the end, the committee felt that Nespak’s points could not be ruled out. It was not, however, possible to dump the chosen route now. “The committee finds it hard to accept or negate the conclusion of the experts opinion,” it said.
The committee thought perhaps it would explore the possibility to carry out a third-party validation from some international consultant or “through some Chinese engineering institute of excellence under a G2G arrangement”.
A conclusion was reached that much more work had to be done:
The K-IV project director needs to take up the land needed for the canal with the Sindh government. The power plant needs to be worked on. The system to connect K-IV to the city’s existing water supply pipeline network needs to be done according to the Japanese Jica master plan study and the Sindh government has to work on getting that extra quota of 1,200 cusecs for K-IV from the Indus. Osmani was given a long list of reviews of its own to conduct and submit to the project director in light of the problems raised by Nespak.