SC orders Punjab govt to decide Dadhocha Dam issue within three weeks


ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government was ordered by the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday to review the issue of Dadhocha Dam’s construction in consultation with the provincial cabinet within three weeks and to come up with a final solution.

18,000 kanals of land were purchased on the site of the dam by the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in 2006 near Rawalpindi where DHA Valley scheme was launched in collaboration with Bahria Town for the rehabilitation of bereaved families of martyred military personnel.

SC, in a suo motu case, had directed the provincial government on August 4, 2015 to construct the dam at its originally proposed site. Sale and purchase of land were also banned in the area soon after the directives of the court and funds were also allocated for the dam’s construction in the annual development plan of FY2017-18. In 2017, the Punjab government had initiated the process of the dam’s construction at a cost of Rs7 billion.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, heard the case on Wednesday and observed that DHA and Bahria Town were ready to construct the dam for free in a joint venture. The court ordered the Punjab government to finalise the issue by reviewing their suggestions, adding that if the provincial government wanted to construct the dam itself then it should inform the cabinet.

Punjab Irrigation Department’s secretary was also questioned by CJP Nisar. He was asked why he had not forwarded the matter to the Punjab cabinet despite the court’s orders.

“Why was the issue not sent to the cabinet? Why did you decide on it yourself?” CJP Nisar said while rebuking him for rejecting Bahria Town’s offer for a joint venture.

The court was informed by the secretary that the provincial irrigation department was not against the idea of a partnership with Bahria Town and a committee had also been formed in this regard.

Responding to his statement, CJP Nisar said, “Who are you to form a committee when the court has given an order?”

The irrigation department’s secretary told the court that nowhere does the court order mention anything about seeking approval from the cabinet, adding that a different secretary must have appeared before the court in the past. After this, the court concluded the hearing and directed the Punjab government to review the matter in the next meeting of the provincial cabinet and to make a final decision within three weeks.

Earlier, on November 2, the provincial government had rejected property tycoon Malik Riaz’s proposal for the construction of the dam in a Bahria Town-led joint venture wherein over Rs26 billion would be utilised for the acquisition of the land compared to the Rs2.8 billion decided by the government. On September 6, the top court had sought the provincial government’s response regarding the dam’s construction through a public-private partnership. The court was informed by the provincial irrigation secretary that the project had been taken over by the department and following the dam’s construction, the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) would supply water to the residents of Rawalpindi.