ISLAMABAD: Construction work of the Jalalpur canal, for which the foundation stone was laid 18 days ago by Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan, remains at a standstill due to problems that stem mainly from a delay in land acquisition, Pakistan Today learnt on Tuesday.
According to sources, the Jalalpur Irrigation Project (JIP) requires land for the115.7Km-long canal; however, the land’s acquisition is being delayed due to slow payments to affectee landowners by the concerned district administration whereas the issues related with land possession have also led to non-issuance of Notice to Commence (NoC) to begin construction work at the site by the project’s engineer/consultant.
On top of this, an external monitor of Asian Development Bank (ADB) has neither verified JIP’s Land Acquisition and Resettlement Plan (LARP) nor issued a No Objection Letter (NOL) owing to delay in land acquisition.
Sources further informed this scribe that the government has been trying hard to convince the engineer to issue the NOC but he is not willing to violate his contract.
As per the documents, JIP consists of three packages wherein the main canal, distributaries and flood carrier channels (FCCs) are to be constructed in Tehsil Jhelum and Pind Dadan Khan.
A total of 8,687 acres of land is to be acquired and out of the total required land, 478 acres lies in Package 1, and 4159 acres in Package 2 and 4050 acres in Package 3. So far, only 416 out of total 1,951 affectee landowners of tehsil Jhelum and tehsil Pind Dadan Khan have been given compensation amounts while Rs36.92 million (58 per cent) has been paid to affectee landowners out of the total budgeted amount of Rs122.63 million.
As per details, the land of total 1307 landowners of tehsil Jhelum would be acquired for JIP and so far 329 (25 pc) affectee landowners have been given the compensation amount of Rs29.1 million (44.3pc) out of the budgeted amount of total Rs65.71 million, while 66 affectee landowners have died so far.
Similarly, the land of 644 landowners of Tehsil Pind Dadan Khan would be acquired for JIP and so far only 87 affectee landowners have been given the compensation amount of Rs7.82 million (13.7pc) out of total Rs56.92 million amount while there are several affectee landowners who have raised objections on the price their land.
Earlier, the prime minister was expected to lay the foundation stone for Jalalpur Canal on December 13th and it was reported that the Punjab Irrigation Department, along with other concerned departments of the provincial government, had made necessary arrangements to hold a grand ceremony in this regard.
However, the PM refused to lay the foundation stone until “an amicable solution to land acquisition issues is reached” and postponed his programme till December 26. Yet, interestingly, he went ahead with laying the project’s foundation stone on December 26 even though the land required for the project was not fully acquired by the government.
It may be mentioned here that the issue of JIP dates to 1898. During the construction of Rasul Barrage in 1898-1901, the right divide wall was built for the canal’s future construction. Even during the reconstruction of Rasul Barrage in 1967 under Indus Water Treaty, provision for the construction of Jalalpur Canal was made.
Similarly, during the motorway’s construction, the provision for crossing on Jalalpur Canal was also made near Lillah Interchange towards Lahore.
The feasibility study of this canal was conducted in 1992-93 while it was updated in 2010. A fresh feasibility study was then conducted from Mar 2014 to Nov 2015, whereas the topographic survey was carried in 2016.
Sources said the total cost of the project is approximately Rs32 billion, of which the ADB would provide 88pc while the remaining 12pc would be paid by the Punjab government whose irrigation and agriculture departments are JIP’s implementing agencies.
On February 7, 2018, the executive committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had approved Rs32,721.46 million as the cost of JIP. The repayment period of the loan was set at 15 years with an interest rate of LIBOR+0.60pc.
The project would be completed in five years, including a one-year defect liability period.