ADB readies $100m for Rawalpindi environment, sanitation
* Environment Minister calls for twin cities to work together
* Says public awareness could reduce pollution
* Water resources decreasingly rapidly
* ADB criticises WASA performance
ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is to provide $100 million in the current year as a part of its environment improvement plan for Rawalpindi.
The first phase of the plan has already been completed and the second-phase feasibility report for better sewerage and sanitation facilities and clean drinking water to the citizens is underway.
The Water And Sanitation Authority (WASA) and ADB jointly organised the third consultative workshop to discuss and finalise the feasibility report. Environment Minister Major (r) Tahir Iqbal was the chief guest.
Punjab Government Advisor Safdar Ali Cheema, senior government officials, local government representatives and non-governmental organisations were also present. Mr Iqbal urged the ADB to extend soft term loans with low interest rate and to accelerate the project approval process because the programme needed to be carried out soon.
“Thousands of people in the city were falling ill because of contaminated water and poor sewerage and sanitation facilities,” he said, adding, “The government will be putting in extra efforts to make the project a success.” The government would pay $ 20-30 million while the rest would be paid by the ADB.
$72 million was given to complete the first phase of the plan but it could not be completed before the deadline and the whole amount was not used. The project took nine years to be completed. The Nala Layee bridges were to be constructed in the first phase and they are still underway. $22 million was left from the project budget. The department did not benefit from the soft term loan that was to be paid back in 35 years at only one percent service charges. Mr Iqbal asked the authorities to chalk out strategies and plans to provide better living standards to people. Mr Iqbal also talked about the decrease in the level of per capita water availability. “We are touching the lowest level of water availability,” he said adding, “This situation calls on us to use rain water build more dams.”
Mr Iqbal said the development programmes must be designed to restore the environment. He asked the rawalpindi Development Authority and the Capital Development Authority to raise public awareness among people about how to reduce pollution. He said every citizen must make sure that his or her vehicle does not emit smoke, which has become the environmental pollution factor. Mr Iqbal also said the industrialists must dispose off effluents and waste products properly to avoid water contamination. Tests showed that the water in many areas contained arsenic, he said adding this must be checked by the authorities to reduce diseases. Mr Iqbal said water treatment plants must be installed at different places to provide clean water to people.
ADB representative Dr Shakeel A Khan said most of the ADB projects were to reduce poverty and improve the environment. He said mixing of sewage with drinking water, lack of management to control contamination of water in Rawal Dam catchment areas contaminated tubewells installed besides Nala Layee were major issues.
Dr Khan said ADB implemented the Environmental Impact Assessment in all the projects. He demanded revival of Rawal Lake Management Committee and regretted the lack of coordination among government departments. Dr Khan condemned WASA for its deterioration. He said the expenditures had increased while the income had decreased.
“The bank has its own constraints and without institutional reforms any project would itself be difficult to deliver to optimum,” Dr Khan said.
He said the bank took six months to approve a project but the development authorities in Pakistan took much longer to complete short projects. “We are here to help you but there is need for improving your system,” he said.
He said at tehsil level, the solid waste disposal situation was worse and proposed to decentralise waste collection to Union Council level.
He said the upcoming US$ 100 million loan facility on 4.5 percent mark up rate is not going to put any extra burden if it is properly utilised. Dr Khan said the bank wanted to provide people with basic necessities to improve their living standard. WASA Managing Director Brigadier Pervez Mahmood gave an overview of WASA activities and dwelt on a number of issues regarding better environment and provision of clean drinking water to the people. —APP