No let-up in contamination of canals, admits minister


LAHORE: PPP backed Punjab senior minister Raja Riaz has admitted that the drainage of sewer water into the irrigation canals and that the department is helpless in this regard. He said there is need of strict policy to improve the irrigation system.
The minister said this while responding to a question during the question-hour session of the Punjab Assembly on Friday. The opposition members gave a very tough time to the senior minister for having no answers to their queries they asked as supplementary questions.
The senior minister also used some derogatory remarks while referring to opposition legislator and senior parliamentarian Amer Sultan Cheema that caused an uproar and forced the chair to expunge the words from proceedings. Amer Sultan Cheema, who has served as minister for irrigation in the previous regime, asked the minister to tell the Assembly as to why government spent money on patchwork after the completion of a new project in Sargodha division.
On the insistence of minister that no money was spent on patchwork, Cheema said that it was clearly mentioned in the answer submitted to the assembly. The chair suggested the minister to investigate the matter, saying that he would also check that whether it was a printing mistake.
Responding to another supplementary question of the same legislator, the minister said that the department has recommended installation of 22 tube-wells in brackish areas of Sargodha division. He said that the department has, so far, paid electrification charges of 14 tube wells to FESCO and out of these 9 were functional.
Raja said the government had completed one drain and considering several other similar projects in the brackish areas under the Annual Development Programme. The minister, however, failed to satisfy the legislator about the exact location of newly constructed drain. He also failed to give the reference number of the letter written to the revenue department for waiving off agriculture levy in flood hit areas.
While admitting drainage of sewerage water in irrigation channels, the minister said that some people were carrying out activity illegally but the department could not guard the entire network round-the-clock. He assured the house to take steps for controlling water contamination.
MPA Ali Asghar Manda observed that the drainage of industrial waste and sewerage water in water channels was damaging crops and causing serious health hazards not only among human beings but also cattle heads. He stressed upon taking immediate measures to stop drainage of hazardous waste in water channels.
To a question of Khawaja Islam regarding construction of small dams in the province, the minister said that 12 such reservoirs were under construction. He also informed the house about their status on October 9, 2009, the time of filing question. That must be a sigh of relief for the minister when the Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal said that the time for the question-hour was up.