The federal government on Monday approved four mega infrastructure projects costing over Rs448 billion, including the Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme at 400% higher cost but with a reduced scope.

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin chaired a meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) that approved Karachi water supply, Kharian motorway and two road projects of the Punjab government, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Ecnec approved the Greater Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme, K-IV, having 260 million gallons per day (MGD) of water capacity at a revised cost of Rs126.4 billion, said the Ministry of Finance.

It added that initially the project was approved with the original capacity of 260 MGD in 2014 to be executed by the government of Sindh.

Later, the project was revised and included in the Karachi Transformation Plan (KTP). The revised cost of Rs126.4 billion with 60% reduction in scope is 396% higher than the 2014 estimate.

In 2014, the then government had also decided to complete the project for supply of 260 MGD of water. But in January last year, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government decided to increase the water supply capacity to 650 MGD.

According to the original PC-I, the per-gallon water supply cost was Rs0.027, which has now escalated to Rs0.096.

The project is aimed at providing a dependable and sustainable water transmission system from Keenjhar Lake, which is over 100 km far, to three reservoirs around the city.

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For the current fiscal year, the government has allocated Rs15.2 billion for the project.

K-IV had been designed to meet demand of 18.5 million inhabitants of Karachi. The project had been approved by Ecnec in 2014 on 50:50 cost-sharing between the federal and provincial governments at a total cost of Rs25.5 billion.

As per the original schedule, the project should have been completed by November 2018.

Under the Karachi Transformation Plan, the PTI-led federal government decided to take over the K-IV project and fund it out of its Rs739 billion share.

Ecnec discussed in detail and approved the Punjab Arterial Roads Improvement Programme (PARIP) worth Rs130 billion or $773.2 million, according to the Ministry of Finance.

The project, sponsored by the government of Punjab, envisages construction of 535km-long dual carriageway, highway sections between various cities of Punjab.

Ecnec, after detailed deliberation, approved the Punjab Rural Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project (PRSWSSP) costing Rs96.2 billion, or $553 million, to be executed by Punjab Rural Municipal Services Company in 16 tehsils of Punjab.

Ecnec called for a reduction in its implementation time. It also directed the participants to implement it initially as a pilot scheme in some tehsils and submit a report to Ecnec for further consideration.

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The project has been designed to provide basic civic amenities such as water supply, sanitation and solid waste management in the rural areas of selected tehsils of Punjab.

Ecnec also approved the Kharian-Rawalpindi Motorway project to be executed on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis under the public-private partnership (PPP) mode at a total cost of Rs95.8 billion.

The project envisages construction of a four-lane, access-controlled 117.2km-long motorway from Kharian to Rawalpindi.

In June last year, the government approved the project at a cost of Rs88.3 billion, which it revised upwards by Rs7.5 billion, or 8.5%, within seven months.

Initially, the government had agreed to provide Rs7.5 billion in subsidy to the project, however, the amount has now been jacked up to Rs20.1 billion.

For the current fiscal year, the government has allocated Rs4 billion for the project in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). The concession period for the project will be 25 years, including the construction period.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2022.

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