Senate panel urges security mechanism at Ghazi Barotha canal to avoid loss of lives

The Ghazi Barotha canal has turned into a death trap for picnickers who take a plunge in its lake since the absence of safety equipment makes it almost impossible to pull a bather out once the strong currents suck him down, a Senate panel observed on Thursday.

The upper house’s standing committee on water resources called upon the authorities to take steps for the picknickers’ safety, recalling that the canal had claimed 124 lives so far.

Masadik Malik of the PML-N chaired the meeting. Senators Sana Jamali, Taj Haider, Gurdeep Singh, Dr Muhammad Humayun Mohmand, Syed Muhammad Sabir Shah and Shaheen Khalid Butt and senior officers of the Ministry of Water Resources and members of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) attended the session.

The meeting reviewed safety matters related to the Ghazi Barotha Hydropower Project on a point of public importance raised by Senator Syed Muhammad Sabir Shah and referred to the committee by the Senate.

The members asked about the reasons for rising safety issues being faced by people while having access to the canal.

Terming such water bodies a poor man’s swimming pool, it was noted by the members that provisions be made to ensure access to the public, while beefing up safety measures.

The senators suggested lifeguards’ deployment around certain parts of the water channel to curb loss of lives. They also advised relevant authorities to also come up with plans for promoting water sports on the canal.

The members also wanted to know reasons for increased fatalities at Ghazi Barotha channel which had claimed the lives of 124 individuals.

The committee was informed by the Wapda authorities that the main reason for the loss of lives was the fact that being a power channel it had higher flow velocity of 7.6 feet per hour.

The meeting was further informed that Ghazi Barotha was a mega run-of-the-river hydropower project of Wapda generating 1450MW of electricity and in addition to safety issues it was prone to national security matters as well. Therefore, the 36-kilometre service road had been protected with guard rail or crash barrier at critical locations along the power channel.

The committee advised that Wapda officers must be given the authority to protect and penalise infringement of barriers.

It directed the Ministry of Water Resources to devise a complete plan on matters relating to safety and security aspects discussed at the meeting and submit it to the panel within three months.

While reviewing details of underground water levels, particularly in Sindh, the panel expressed concern over lack of information of the public health engineering and rural development department in Sindh.

The committee directed that details of plans to deal with water logging and salinity, including maintenance of reverse osmosis (RO) plants and left bank outfall drain (LBOD) channels be presented at the next meeting of the committee.

The committee also expressed concern to know that 70pc of RO plants in Sindh were not in working condition. It directed that a complete report be presented to the committee on measures to reduce water logging and salinity by 30pc in the province, in accordance with the Indus Water Accord of 1991.

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