Twin city water woes worsen as supply from Khanpur Dam halved

Left bank canal of dam to undergo 10d-day de-silting exercise

APP February 01, 2018
A view of almost dried up Khanpur Dam Lake. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: The parched residents of the capital have been told to brace for further water shortages after the government decided to curtail the supply of water from the Khanpur Dam owing to maintenance of its left bank canal.

In an advisory issued by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on Wednesday, annual de-silting and cleaning operation will be conducted on the left bank canal of the dam for 10-days from February 1-10.

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During this period, supply from the dam for Islamabad will be reduced from eight million gallons per day (mgd) to just three million gallons per day. Moreover, Rawalpindi will see its supply reduced to just a third, from 12 mgd to just four million gallons per day.

The capital is already facing a shortage of water after supply from the Simply Dam, the main source of water for the city, saw supplies reduced from 34 mgd to just 19 mgd.

“Residents of the city are requested to be calculated in their use of water during this period and in case of water shortage, residents may call the CDA water tanker service,” read the CDA advisory.

Meanwhile, a similar advisory was issued by the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) in Rawalpindi. The advisory noted that the shutdown will affect several areas of the garrison city, including Pir Wadhai, Khyban-e-Sir Syed, Dhoke Matkaal, Shamsabad, Iqbal Town, Muslim Town Sadiqabad and some parts of Satellite Town.

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WASA Managing Director Raja Shaukat urged people to avoid wasting water during the shutdown period.

“Supply will be restored after completion of dredging and desalting work on February 12,” he said. To mitigate the fall in supply from the dam, Shaukat said that they will keep their tube wells on for extra hours while water will also be supplied through tankers.

Dire situation

The situation at the Khanpur Dam, though, is quite precarious with water levels having dropped drastically due to a persistent dry spell.

As a result, one can see small islands of rocks emerging in the lake — which looks more like a pond. While confirming the alarming water situation in the dam, Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) officials in Taxila said that the water levels in the dam was 1,928 feet above mean sea level (AMSL), which was just 18 feet higher than the dead level of 1,910 AMSL.

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He said that owing to the water supply to the Rawalpindi and Islamabad as well seepage, levels were falling by 0.10 feet per day.

The outflow of 90 cusecs per day from the reservoir was much higher than the daily inflow of 50 cusecs per day. “Due to low water in the dam, water supply for irrigation to both Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab has already been suspended to meet the water needs of the civic bodies,” he added.

With the emergence of underground rocks and the dam’s bed an alarming sign, dam authorities noted that the dam had not received the regular inflow of water due to fewer rains and snowfall in the catchment areas of the dam including in the Margalla Hills and Galliyat.

Dam officials fear that they would have to further curtail the supply of water owing to fast falling water levels. Moreover, the prevailing dry weather conditions mean that the water table in Taxila and Wah had receded sharply, reducing the amount of water available in tube wells, agriculture department officials confirmed.

Moreover, the arrival of visitors and picnickers in the dam’s scenic site has also shown a decline with boatmen leaving their boats abandoned on the dried up surface of the lake.

Raja Javaid, a local contractor who operates many speedboats at the lake, said that low levels at the dam were turning tourists away.

“We are facing the toughest time of the season since boating activities have almost run aground, causing serve loss to local boatmen,” he said.

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Gulfam Khan, another boatman, echoed Javaid, noting that dwindling water levels had seen the number of visitors to the lake dwindle as well.

Raja Faheem, who owns a makeshift hotel on the banks of the lake, said that his business had contracted from Rs8,000 to Rs10,000 per day to around Rs1,000 to Rs2,000 per day.

Irshad Ali Khan, who was visiting with his family, also expressed his disappointment at the lower water levels.

We could not enjoy the thrill of boating in the dam due to little water and with rocks jutting out everywhere,” he lamented.

Another tourist, Tahir Suleman, said that the lake looked more like a pond with rubbish and waste spread everywhere.


Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2018.