Would-be solution to Karachi’s water issue in limbo

Published: May 21, 2018
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PHOTO: FILE

PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: In the 2018-19 budget, the Sindh government has allocated only Rs60 million for a project to provide 65 million gallons of water per day to the city – a much needed project.

The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) has claimed that the project will be completed in 2019 while the budget lists the new completion date as 2021. However, the approved plan does not include a filtration plant, due to which the PC-I of the project is being revised, which will therefore raise the project costs.

From March 1, the KWSB started a new project to provide an additional 65MGD of water from the Keenjhar Lake and Haleji Lake. After the cleaning and repair of Haleji Lake, the supply of 20MGD from the lake to Karachi will be resumed after a hiatus of 25 years. The project will cost around Rs5.9 billion.

In the 2018-19 budget, only Rs60 million has been allocated for the project. According to budget documents, Rs2.5 million will be allocated in the 2019-20 budget and a further Rs2.5 billion in the 2020-21 budget.

KWSB Managing Director Khalid Mehmood Sheikh said work on the project began in March and the project will be completed in 18 months, however, the water board is trying its best to complete the project by June 2019. They need Rs5 billion to complete the project by next year.

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Speaking to Express News, Sheikh said this is one of the most important projects of Karachi and should be completed on time. He said he will request the government for a revised allocation of Rs5 billion for the project in the upcoming budget. He said confidently that the provincial government will approve the board’s request and the project will not encounter any further delays.

In 1985, a share of 1,200 cusecs of water, around 650MGD, from the Indus River was approved for Sindh, which will be completed after the 65MGD project is finished.

Initially, the project was to begin right after the completion of the K-III project in 2006, which was to supply 650MGD of water. However, the board’s administration then demanded 1,200 cusecs from the Indus River from the federal and provincial government for which the K-IV project was planned. After a long struggle, an additional 260MGD of water from the Indus River was approved and in relation to this the first phase of the K-IV has been in progress since last year.

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Despite the fact that the KWSB project was approved 12 years ago, many areas still suffer water shortages. All six districts of the city are plagued by an intense water crisis, which will only worsen in Ramazan. Timely completion of this project would have reduced the city’s water crisis to a major extent, however, the elected provincial government and bureaucracy failed to pay heed to residents’ basic necessities.

KWSB officials, on the basis of anonymity, said that efforts to undertake the 65MGD project have been under way since 2012 but due to non-provision of funds the project encountered continuous delays. In 2015, the provincial government approved the project and an initial study was carried out in 2016-17. In the 2017-18 budget Rs1 billion was allocated but only Rs25 million was released.

The detailed study and design were carried out using the Rs25 million. Consultants completed the design within six months. Later, tenders were issued, the contract awarded to the National Logistics Cell and work on the project finally began.

The KWSB officials said keeping the budget statistics and numbers aside, this is a very important project. The water board has already started working on one part of the development project and awarded two contracts on the two other phases last month. It will utilise the budget of Rs60 million that it was allotted in the upcoming budget as mobilisation funds, but will still require more money.

According to sources within the Sindh government, the Pakistan Peoples Party-led provincial government has not allocated funds for new schemes due to the upcoming elections and a bare minimum has been allocated for old projects. Hence, Rs50 billion has been kept as block allocation. When the new government comes into power, it can allocate more funds from the block allocation to development schemes.

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Project director Zafar Palijo said that a 58 kilometre-long line will be constructed from Keenjhar Lake to the Pipri Pumping Station for the project. The project comprises four development projects and the construction cost is estimated at around Rs5.9 billion, excluding the construction of a filtration plant.

Phase one of the project, which is already under construction, is a 14.5km reinforced cement concrete canal from Keenjhar Lake to Gharo. The cleaning of Haleji Lake will also be reviewed and later a new line will be merged from the lake to the new canal.

Phase two is the construction of the Gharo Pump House, with its tender awarding process to be completed next month, after which construction work will commence. Phase three is an 11km long and 72 inch wide pipe from Gharo to Dhabeji. Work on this phase will also commence next month.

Phase four is the construction of a 28km-long conduit stretching from the forebay to Pipri. This stage of the project will commence after three months.

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Palijo said that the provision of water from Keenjhar Lake will be 45MGD and 20MGD from Haleji Lake. He explained that the main function of Haleji Lake is to have a sustainable and stable means of supplying of water, as well as it once again being a bird sanctuary.

He said Haleji Lake is the KWSB’s property. This artificial lake was created during the British era in order to provide water to the British and American soldiers stationed in Karachi during World War II. The network was built till Karsaz. In 1942, the lake was made functional and started providing 20MGD to Karachi till 1994.

But due to the Right Bank Outfall Drain project, Haleji Lake was disconnected from the canal that met the Indus River, causing the immediate halt of water supply to Karachi. Due to the suspension of water from the Indus River to Haleji Lake, the latter’s water levels fell.

But five years ago, the Sindh government completed the RBOD and connected the canal from the Indus River to the Haleji Lake, but water supply to the lake has still not resumed as the board first wants to clean the lake of silt. New gates will also be installed at the lake.

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Reader Comments (2)

  • Saeed
    May 21, 2018 - 3:35PM

    Not necessary to engage paid contractors only. Use young volunteers from every field for lake cleaning obviously under guidance of some experienced volunteers. Need national development.Recommend

  • Zaheer
    May 23, 2018 - 11:39AM

    Give us a breakup of Rs 5 Billion needed. We dont want a major chunk of this going into your pockets!Recommend

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