The spokesperson for the Government of Balochistan Liaqat Shahwani expressed his concerns the other day over the capacity of more than one hundred thousand families to be able to support themselves in the wake of Covid-19. As the tiny monster goes on rampage around the world, it continues to weaken the economies worldwide. Already weak and vulnerable societies are no exceptions. Society like Balochistan which are already vulnerable owing to prolonged economic and political discrimination are now under double pressure. This could lead to high rates of mortality or morbidity of hundreds of thousands given the already pathetic socio-economic indicators. If the Federal Government wants to arrest this degeneration and has a will to save hundreds lives from falling victim to hunger, disease and poverty, it has to expedite work on projects such as Kachi Canal.
Balochistan has been very unfortunate in terms of appropriation and timely completion of projects sanctioned under Federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). The recent case in point is Kachi Canal which was approved by the Federal Government in 2002 was scheduled to complete in 2008 with a cost of Rs 31.204 billion. On completion, it would have canal capacity of 6,000 and would irrigate around 0.7 million acres of land in Naseerabad division and around its adjoining areas. However, it took long 18 years to complete only phase-1 of the project up to Dera Bugti which only has the capacity to irrigate 72000 acres of land. The phase-II which, if completed can irrigate 216000 acres of land and Phase-III 344,000 acres. But the project has been delayed inordinately by the federal government which has the capacity to turn the large tracks of virgin land in Balochistan a food basket for not only for the people of this province but also for rest of the country. It would also induce a chain reaction of economic activity through promotion of live-stock business apart from the crop benefit of annual Rs 5 billion.
It may be mentioned here that The Kachi canal is not a charity that federal government has extended to the people of Balochistan. It is the due share of water accorded to the province under water distribution mechanism agreed under Water Apportionment Accord signed on March 21, 1991 amongst the provinces under which Balochistan was given 3% share in Indus Water Basin System. Unless these projects are completed, the share of Balochistan’s water will be utilized by other provinces. The provincial government should actively pursue such projects so that they are completed timely to create employment and lead to the betterment of socioeconomic indicators in the province.