Karāchi : Pakistan | May 15, 2011 at 2:11 PM PDT
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Engine 305 Pulling Away From A Fire Hydrant.


Water scarcity in Karachi has long been on the agenda and is referred to as one of the biggest challenges for the mega city. Government should explore the issue of artificial water shortage in Karachi.

Living along the most developed coastline of the country, common logic dictates that Karachi should ostensibly not be facing a water crisis,

considering that factories utilise all their supply, and households have enough water left for people to wash their cars or even grow their own

vegetables. In reality, this reasoning does not hold true.

A population of about 18 million people in Karachi is supplied with water primarily through the Gujjo and Hub canals. However a deficit of water supply exists and is estimated to be about 100 million gallons per day (MGD). According to statistics from the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), Karachi’s water supply currently stands at 647 MGD in contrast to a demand of 750 MGD.

The supply deficit of water begs the question: how do citizens manage to fulfil the supply deficit of water for their common needs?

The answer lies in water tankers 96 which many perceive as the only solution to the city’s water problems. As the government is unable to keep the water infrastructure in adequate condition, water tankers in Karachi are high in demand, catering to thousands of people, hundreds of industrial units, hotels, service stations, and commercial ventures. It is estimated that in Karachi, water tankers make over 20,000 rounds every day. In addition, there are hundreds of tank-mounted vans and donkey carts supplying millions of gallons of water across the city to domestic users, industrial units, hotels, and other businesses where water is required in abundance.

The water supply through tankers, many believe, will never end. In the absence of a proper system through pipelines, most remain indifferent of water wastage. As a result, people do not conserve or better manage the water they receive through tankers. As a matter of fact, since these tankers are just a call away and more efficient, citizens do not bother questioning their source and are willing to pay a high price for a better service provided at their doorstep.

Although KWSB officials claim that only three per cent of the city’s areas use the tanker service, reality is different. “In a mega city like Karachi,

only up to five percent of total water is supplied through tankers in areas where pipelines don’t exist or where there is temporary need for water,” claim officials. However, Kolachi learnt that 60 per cent of the areas that receive water through tankers already have water pipelines.

There are currently 22 ‘official’ water hydrants being managed by town administrations, some of which were retrieved from the Rangers a few years ago. In addition, there are also hundreds of illegal hydrants functioning in the city, which officials at the KWSB are aware of, but choose to look to the other way, it has reliably been learnt. The majority of such illegal hydrants are situated in the areas of Manghopir, Baldia, SITE, Orangi Town,Lanhdi industrial area, and adjacent areas. “It is impossible for these hydrants to exist without the consent of the KWSB.

The department’s “corrupt” officials for citizens’ preference for the tanker system. “There is a large industrial unit in Federal B Area industrial area where one can see a queue of water tankers, despite the fact that they have a proper water connection. They are compelled to get water through tankers, because their pipelines do not supply them with sufficient water. Another factor is that mill owners also want to save on commercial water charges.”

Gulistan-e-Jauhar is another area where most apartments opt for tankers even though they receive water through the KWSB pipelines. Residents claim that they are compelled to rely on tankers since distribution of water is unequal. “There are cases where one of two adjacent buildings receive water from the pipeline, while residents of the other are compelled to use tankers,” complains a resident.

It is believed, however, that the tanker service is beneficial to KWSB officials, who extract favours from influentials such as ministers,

bureaucrats, and politicians in return for a steady supply of water at no cost. Since these influential personalities are provided with water tankers free of charge, which the KWSB officials manage by pressurising the hydrant and tanker owners, no action is taken either against the water thieves or corrupt KWSB officials. Only those citizens who purchase water tankers at exorbitant rates suffer.”

Due to this racket, KWSB recovers just 18 per cent of water charges from its customers, and lacks indigenous resources required to lay new pipelines and prevent leakages. The main source of income is from the Bulk consumers but interestingly out of 5500 bulk meters only 500 are functional and rest and therefore average bills are being issued to the faulty meter holders. Its in the benefit of the corrupt Revenue staff to utilize as a tool of bribery.

There are other impediments in the supply of water. Several natural rainwater drains have bisected the Hub canal that supplies Karachi with water from the Hub Dam. Built-in pipes have been constructed along the canal that suck water in and redistribute to farm houses, poultry farms and squatter settlements on the outskirts of the city, from where the canal initiates to the Northern Bypass area. Bridges have been built to maintain the continuity of water in the canal in the presence of rainwater drains, but this is not as effective as it should be =96 water from the canal often seeps into rainwater drains, which flow all year round as a result, rain or no rain.

Similarly, the Gujjo Canal supplies Karachi with water from the Kinjhar Lake. This particular canal is 150 kilometers long, but only 30 kilometers

of it is cemented. A large portion of the water is absorbed into the soil, and lost. Scores of fields along the Gujjo canal, as well as agricultural

and recreational farms are cultivated by the water from the canal. Illegal factories, too, use the same freshwater for their goods. So do residential colonies nearby, leading experts to believe that nearly 35 to 40 percent of water being supplied to Karachi either leaks away unnecessarily, or is stolen.

It is suggested that corruption, mismanagement and political intervention have pushed the organisation towards a brink of collapse. “What the KWSB needs right now is effective administrative and financial management, an end to political interference into its affairs, tight monetary control, and the elimination of certain highly corrupt elements,” including Chief Engineers, DMDs and Managing Director.. Until that happens, water will continue to be ‘stolen’ before it reaches the pipelines as has been happening for several years now.

A Water Expert

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Indian women fill containers with potable water from a government water supply tanker
Indian women fill containers with potable water from a government water supply tanker
nabeela2001 is based in Karāchi, Sind, Pakistan, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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