Why a clean drinking water project in Punjab is going nowhere

Earlier this year, Nasir Iqbal, a senior officer of the Punjab Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Department in Kasur district – to which Kulalanwala and Kot Asadullah belong – visited the two villages and told locals that the provincial government’s Khadim-e-Punjab Saaf Pani (clean water) Programme would soon set up a water filtration plant for them, using the most advanced technology.
The outgoing CEO of Punjab Saaf Pani Company, Farasat Iqbal, informed participants of the meeting that 135 schemes for the provision of clean drinking water – as a pilot project – had been shortlisted for “rehabilitation in Bahawalpur region” at a cost of 896 million rupees.
The chief minister, as per the official minutes of the meeting, “desired that high-quality third-party international consultancy should be hired to validate” that all the payments made to the project contractor are done on the basis of completed work.
By the time KSB started working on the project, its entire technical and financial design had changed.
Punjab Saaf Pani Company issued an advertisement on April 1, 2015 to invite foreign and local companies to bid for the next phase of the project to be carried out in 17 tehsils across Punjab.
The chairman of the Planning and Development Department informed the meeting that Sinohydro Corporation Limited, a Chinese company working on a number of water sector projects in Pakistan, has been “briefed” on the Punjab Saaf Pani Company “and the contracts being offered” for setting up clean drinking water supply schemes in Pattoki tehsil.
He directed Punjab Saaf Pani Company to “ensure that no substandard company” is shortlisted for the bidding process.
The process of shortlisting the firms that qualified for bidding was not complete even by July 23, 2016 when the provincial chief secretary told the participants that 64 international companies had submitted the bids.
By August 23, 2016, Shehbaz Sharif was having second thoughts about the entire operation of Punjab Saaf Pani Company.
More than 30 months have passed since the process began for inviting and shortlisting companies to take part in the construction of clean drinking water supply schemes.

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