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Ecnec approves polio eradication, highway projects

ISLAMABAD: The Exe­cu­tive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Friday approved two projects — $986 million polio eradication and Rs9.5 billion Swabi-Mardan Highway — but deferred approval of the Rs46.5bn Nai Gaj Dam project.

The meeting was presided over by Finance Minister Asad Umar who asked the Sindh government to provide technical details about the development of associated catchment areas so as to take an informed decision for dam construction in line with directives of the apex court.

The meeting approved revised Emergency Plan for Polio Eradication at a cost of $986.29m through Supple-mental Immunisa­tion Activities (SIAs) across the country and undertaking environmental surveillance to completely curb polio virus transmission.

Approval of Rs46.5bn Nai Gaj Dam project deferred

Polio was declared a national public health emergency in 2011 and yearly National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) for Polio Eradication has since been implemented under direct guidance and oversight of the National Task Force (NTF) for Polio Eradication.

The task force, led by the prime minister, comprised governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, provincial chief ministers and prime minister of Azad Jammu & Kashmir.

The project has been revised for the second time for three years’ (2019-21) supplemental immunisation activities with an estimated cost of $986.3m from July 2019 to December 2021 and now clubbed for a total project period of nine and a half years.

The previous project covered six and a half years from July 2012 to December 2018 with a cost of $638.6m including the first phase of $327m for 2012-15. The project involves a soft loan of $427m from Islamic Deve­lop­ment Bank, a $80m loan from the World Bank, $60m grant from Japan’s Interna­tional Cooperation Assis­tance and expected grants of $419m from Canada, UAE, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. Malinda and Bill Gates Foundation would pay back the interest on the IDB loan. All expenditures are being made by World Health Orga­nisation and United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (Unicef).

The project aims to ensure vaccine procurement and programme operations to ensure that all vaccination process reach all targeted children, detect and take appropriate response to any wild poliovirus (WPV) case or evidence of low level transmission of virus.

The project would also ensure risk assessment and responses based on best available data and then arrange management oversight and accountability for all involved in the programme implementation. The meeting was told that interrupting the virus transmission in core reservoirs in Karachi, Quetta and Khyber-Peshawar was the key to Pakistan’s success in polio eradication and hence activities had been planned accordingly.

The Ecnec also approved a project regarding feasibility study and dualisation of 42-km Mardan-Swabi Road at a total cost of Rs9.550bn. The project envisages dualisation and improvement of existing 42-km-long Mardan-Swabi Road to a dual carriageway road, each carriageway having 7.3 metre width. The scope of the work includes construction of 14 new bridges, improvement of 8 existing bridges and underpass, 75 new culverts besides other structures.

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