The Karachi water board wrapped up the second part of its crackdown against illegal water connections on Monday but its managing director warned that they needed to tweak the laws if they wanted a permanent solution.
At the start of the week, the work took place near the Super Highway around Sohrab Goth. Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) chief engineer for bulk supplies, Najam-e Alam Siddiqui, went to supervise. Gangs had set up 10 illegal water hydrants that were siphoning supplies off to North Karachi, Orangi, Baldia and SITE. The water board estimated that these men were stealing around 10 million gallons a day. The MD said that the actual number of illegal hydrants was even higher, at 22 and they were all ripped out. Around 50 connections were also removed in Ayub Goth, Super Highway.
According to the chief engineer, the key members of the gang were Bakht Muneer, Afzal Waheed and Sher Ali who had spawned a network that operated across the city. Some of the suspects have been identified and implicated in cases. The damage caused to the bulk supply lines is estimated to be around Rs40 million.
Unfortunately, the law isn’t strict enough to clamp down on the gangs. One engineer lamented that the men were arrested, but would quickly get bail. Part of the problem is that some of the KWSB staff aided such criminals. They just “conceal” the leaks in the lines with wooden plugs and cement, which is hardly a permanent solution. The gangs are back after a few days.
The water board is cognisant of the fact that it is dealing with a chronic problem. MD Misbahuddin Farid told The Express Tribune that for a permanent end to this ‘menace’, they needed to change the law. Stealing water is a bailable offence which means the men are out within an hour.
The water board has taken up sterner punishement with the local government secretary and the home department, suggesting a few years in jail. “The mafia’s water tankers and other machinery should also be confiscated,” Farid said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2011.