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ISLAMABAD: The Independent Evaluation Department (IED) of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has rated technical assistance for “Pakistan: Institutional Transformation of the Punjab Irrigation Department to a Water Resources Department” less than relevant, less than effective, and less than successful.

The assistance of $2.5 million was approved in 2016, of which, $1.8 million was disbursed and $0.65 million remained undisbursed by March 2022—the actual completion date.

The IED in its validation report stated that the technical assistance (TA) project was designed to help Pakistan’s Punjab Irrigation Department (PID) enhance its capacity for transforming from a traditional irrigation water deliverer to a Water Resources Department (WRD) for comprehensive management of water resources and water-related disasters. This was aimed at supporting Punjab to change from a historically developed sector-driven and exploitation-oriented water resources management to a more holistic approach of integrated water resource management (IWRM) and disaster risk management (DRM).

The PID has historically been responsible for diverting water from rivers to farms for irrigation.

However, Punjab was increasingly facing challenges of water resources including water shortages, which impacted agricultural production, human health, and constrained industrial production. Also, the deterioration of its irrigation infrastructure affected the ability to supply water efficiently. Insufficient provision of water to farmers resulted in overexploitation of groundwater and low water use efficiency.

Punjab’s Water Policy (December 2018) and Water Act (December 2019) set the legal framework for effective management of water resources, which enabled the setting up of a Water Resources Commission (WRC) and Water Services Regulatory Authority (WSRA). With growing recognition of the need to improve water governance, water institution responsiveness, and services delivery, Punjab was moving ahead with the transformation of its PID to a responsive WRD.

This project was also intended to support strategic planning and strengthen capacity in implementing the Punjab Water Policy and the Water Act.

The report noted that TA design was not thoroughly analyzed at conception because it is not explicitly clear how relevant the outcome and output indicators remained throughout TA implementation. The TA completion report (TCR) noted that the approval of a Water Resources Zone under the PID in August 2020 was indicative of the government’s preference for PID to undertake the role of a WRD, rather than establishing a new WRD. This casts some doubt as to whether the design and monitoring framework (DMF) output indicators were achievable and sustainable without the government’s intent to form a WRD.

At the design stage, potential risks for transforming the PID to a new WRD were not fully analysed and possible alternatives were not well considered. It is unclear why the option of improving the existing PID was not explored from the start. In addition, the TA’s timing was not ideal as the TA had to wait for three years for the approval of the National Water Policy, Punjab Water Policy, and the Punjab Water Act to start implementation. These present the project design weaknesses that impacted project results. There was one extension and one minor revision in scope. The targeted timeline of DMF was revised in December 2019 while the indicators were not changed.

The choice of the capacity development TA was appropriate as it focused on creating the enabling conditions for the WRD formation, including through support for policy development, systems, and training of staff to strengthen capacity. The TCR also noted that the TA addressed ADB's corporate priorities supporting the developing member country’s challenges such as institutional transformation. The design issues affected the delivery of project outcome and outputs. Hence, this validation assesses the TA less than relevant. The TA budget was underutilized at 73.89 percent. The TA faced significant start-up delays of three years as it awaited the government’s approval of the Punjab Water Policy which happened in 2018 and the Water Act in 2019. This means that the actual implementation period was approximately two years.

TA design did not explore the option of improving the existing PID, and all potential risks of transforming the PID to a WRD were not thoroughly analyzed, impacting the project results. Also, the DMF output indicators had some shortcomings. It was unclear whether they were achievable and sustainable without the government’s intent to form a WRD.

Furthermore, the TA’s timing was not ideal as the TA had to wait for three years for the approval of the National Water Policy, Punjab Water Policy, and the Punjab Water Act to start implementation. The TA managed to deliver on some key elements. But the TA’s weak design affected achievements of the key intended results. As a result, a WRD was not established and the envisaged institutional transformation of PID did not take place. The TA faced significant start-up delays of three years in implementation and the budget was underutilized.

Overall, this validation assesses the TA less than successful.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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