KEENJHAR LAKE RESORT DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

PROMOTING TOURISM WITH BUILDING RESORTS

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Apr
5 - 11, 2010

The government started public private partnership units at provincial level to assist government departments to make financial collaboration with the private sectors for infrastructure and human resource developments all around the country.

Government of Sindh also established a public-private partnership (PPP) unit. Practically, the PPP unit supervised by the Finance Department's technical and marketing expertise is responsible to help various departments of government of Sindh to identify areas of potential investments across the province, in addition to make feasibility reports of projects.

While the government has started the unit with much fanfare, the outcomes that should have been reflected in start-up of public-private projects are still crawling within the procedural cycles. Contrary to the hopes that PPP would give impetus to developments across the underdeveloped rural areas-where infrastructure is in shambles-of Sindh, merely few projects under private sector partnership have risen from ground.

PPP unit of Sindh has staff and consultants trained in project management from abroad and partaken in online courses. One cannot make lack of expertise responsible for the slow takeoff of an investment model that has proved its success in many developed countries. Instead, desire to save public money is what mainly makes the unit drag its feet enticing the private sector. There also seems a lack of coordination between the unit and other government divisions. As opposed to general perception, public-private partnership is not a joint-venture, it was learnt. In fact, the department tries hard to save even seed money required in the initial phase of a project.

Mirpurkhas-Hyderabad road, which is perhaps only PPP project that is near its financial close, had also fallen in to impasse due to retreat of private sector in its early stage. Unquestionably, private investor agrees to join in a project in view of profits and backs off on high-risk perception. In past, government put up a toll plaza on one highway to be constructed, so as to embolden commercial viability factors in the business plan, an official related. However, on a court order the toll collection point had to be dismantled, he said. People were not ready to pay taxes while travelling on road that was yet to be constructed. There was logic in it. He said legislative alteration is required to accelerate public-private developments. Sindh law minister has also emphasized the importance of legislative corrections for PPP.

Public-private partnership can become catalytic force of developing infrastructure on fast-track basis. PPP unit has expanded the scope of this programme to human resource development as well. It has recently liaised with Sindh technical education and vocational and training authority to provide local population of Thatta district with vocational training in new employable skills. The people of the district are associated with traditional occupations. Especially, those who live in Goths (underserved towns) around Keenjhar Lake have limited numbers of sources of income, earning their livelihood through fishing. The vocational training is aimed at, according to an official, to make them prepared for mega public-private partnership project to be launched in the district. The multi-billion rupees project named as Keenjhar Lake Resort Development Project (KLRDP) is planned to start with collaboration of private investors. Public and Private Partnership Unit is planning to invite bids from local and foreign investors to build resorts in the vicinity of Keenjhar Lake in the Thatta district, which is acclaimed for its ancient necropolis, a vast Lake, etcetera. Expressions of Interest would soon been floated for the development of resort under Sindh government's public-private partnership programme. The bids for the rehabilitation and building of multi-billion rupees Keenjhar Lake and resorts would be sought from local as well as international investors. The feasibility report and financial model of the project envisaging resort and recreational facilities construction over approximately 600 acres near the Lake have been formulated. Another tract of 1300 acres would later be covered in the project. The lands are in possession of Sindh revenue department presently and thus needed to be transferred to project- supervisor provincial tourism department. PPP unit is designing business plan in order to create source of reimbursements for the initial investments, which could be chipped in by the government and are essential to make the project viable. But, the preference of PPP unit is to make project self-reliant in terms of funds generations. "That means obviously that private investors are encouraged to invest." Around 2 to 3 billion rupees will be needed to start reversal process in and around the lake, which is one of the largest lakes in Pakistan with a periphery of 198 kilometers, 113 kilometer east of Karachi.

Unfortunately, once the sanctuary of over 200,000 migratory birds and house of variety of flora and fauna now reels under sheer deterioration; according to World Wild Life, counts of migratory birds reduced to 1700 by the end of 2009. Thousand tons of effluents are daily disposed off from the Kotri industrial area and the residential settlements through KB feeder canal in to the lake to asphyxiate the animal and planetary lives alike. The lake serves as the major reservoir of fresh water for Karachi. The rehabilitation is thus more important to prevent outbreak of water related ailments in the southern port city of Karachi. Lives in Manchar lake in Dadu district were virtually terminated because of the very reason of toxic substance drained into the lake from agriculture lands and residential settlements. One expert went on to say that for its location, all wastes from upper parts of the country traverse the lake before submerging into the Arabian Sea. That has caused extinction of water species and death to horticulture in the area. At least two effluent or sewerage treatment plants-one having estimated cost of Rs700 million-are required to be installed to stop waste discharge into the Keenjhar Lake. The unplanned tourism is also one of the main causes of degradation of ecology. Out of total area of 600 acres allocated for KLRDP, 150 acres would be allocated for golf course and 200 acres for the recreational facilities. The project can reverse the adverse fallouts of degradation on the lake and its vicinity and bring prosperity in medieval promenade district.