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LAHORE: Provincial Finance Minister Mohsin Laghari has said that the refusal of the federal government to sign a loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the construction of the Greater Thal Canal project is not only an injustice with the people of Punjab but also from the nation.

Addressing a press conference on Sunday, the finance minister said that availability of water for the irrigation of farm lands is critical to meet the nutritional needs of ballooning population. “The Greater Thal Canal project will irrigate agricultural lands of the backward districts of Punjab like Khushab, Layyah, Bhakkar, Jhang and Muzaffargarh,” he added.

He said that creating obstacles in the construction of the canal will not only increase difficulties for farmers but also economically kill the people associated with the system. “The Punjab government will not tolerate this injustice to the people and if the federal government failed to sign the loan agreement with the ADB then they will complete the initiative from province’s own resources,” he claimed.

The Greater Thal Canal project was not a new project, he said, recalling that it was started in 1940 but since partition, the project was awaiting attention of the successive governments. “However this time around, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government decided to seek help from the ADB to complete the project.”

According to the procedure, provinces are bound to get permission from the federation to obtain loans from international development banks for development purposes, the minister said, adding that a period of one year was required to sign the agreement with the ADB during which regime change was also witnessed in Punjab. He added that December 12, 2022, was the last date for signing the agreement, but the federal government refused to do so on the basis of “baseless allegations of Sindh”.

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According to Sindh, he added, the project is being irrigated with Sindh water which is completely wrong. “Sindh and the federation are well aware of the fact that Punjab is irrigating the Greater Thal Canal with its own share of water. In the Inter-Provincial Water Accord of 1991, a regular share has been allocated for the Greater Thal Canal.

In 2008, certificate was also issued by IRSA to supply water to the canal,” he explained. Laghari further said that as per the water distribution agreement, the federal government has given the remaining three provinces their share of canals, including Rainy Canal in Sindh, Khachi in Balochistan and Chashma Right Bank canal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but Punjab was deprived of its due right of construction of the canal.

So much so, the federal government had also not provided aid for the floods victims and due funds were transferred from the NFC Award. “The floods also badly affected the canal system and infrastructure in Punjab but the federal government was not ready take responsibility for it,” he further claimed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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