Closing illegal hydrants worsens crisis in Rawalpindi

Federal capital halves supply from Simly Dam as tankers struggle to cope with demand


Jamil Mirza June 25, 2018
Forced to buy water tankers, many residents have turned to stage protests against cantonment officials, but to little avail. PHOTO: EXPRESS

RAWALPINDI: Despite being touted as one of the reasons for the shortage of water in the twin cities, a locality of Rawalpindi discovered that shutting down illegal water hydrants only further exposed the administrative failings to supply water and has, instead, contributed to worsening the ongoing crisis.

With water supplies from Simly and Khanpur dams, tube wells and the Rawal Lake dwindling in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, residents have been forced to fork out sums for water tankers provided by private hydrant operators.

Councillors torpedo move to regularise illegal hydrants

This even led to top jurist of the country, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar taking notice of the situation in a suo moto on the shortage of water in the country.

After receiving complaints, the Rawalpindi and Chaklala Cantonment boards moved to shut down as many as 48 illegal water hydrants operating within their jurisdiction.

This, however, only exposed the cantonment board’s own water supply network, as parched residents continued to dole out large sums to procure water tankers.

If the owners of illegal water hydrants were making modest profits previously, the closure of these illegal hydrants has turned into full-blown profiteering establishments with suppliers easily demanding as much as Rs3,500 for small tankers and Rs5,000 for large tankers.

Former national assembly lawmaker and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate from NA-61 Malik Ibrar Ahmed, has urged the chief justice to take notice of the water crisis in Rawalpindi Cantonment and form a committee which enforces an agreement between the cantonment board and tube well owners to supply water or to seek another water supply solution.

Water shortage to continue in city during Eid

Shortage of water supply in areas such as Afshan Colony, Peoples Colony, Masrial Road, Dhoke Syedan and others areas of Rawalpindi Cantonment Board has forced residents on to the roads.

Residents Haji Iqbal, Abdul Waheed, Tanveer Iqbal and others said that they were facing immense difficulties owing to shortage of water but the authorities concerned are paying little heed to resolve the situation.

Several complaints have been registered but the water supply situation remains the same, they lamented, adding that their areas do not receive a regular supply of water while the water supply department was playing the role of a silent spectator.

RCB Spokesperson Qaisar Mehmood said that they had sealed illegal water hydrants in areas such as Misrial, Dhoke Gujra, Chakra, People Colony, Tench Bhatta, Dhoke Syedan, Masrial Road and other areas.

He added that these hydrants were adversely affecting underground water levels which have already been depleted owing to excessive boring in many areas, creating a shortage of water in cantonment areas.

Mehmood warned said that unless appropriate measures were taken, residents of cantonment areas could be left with very low water levels in just a few years.

Where is the supply?

With the city waiting on the monsoon rains, the Khanpur dam and Rawal Lake have almost dried out. As has the water supply from these reservoirs.

A number of tube wells spud across the twin cities have also run dry.

Owing to the ongoing water crisis in the cantonment, citizens have been limited to a meagre supply for barely 30 minutes every 24 hours.

Many areas, though, are not even that lucky.

Forced to buy water tankers, many residents have turned to stage protests against cantonment officials, but to little avail.

Rawal Lake, one of the main sources of water in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, has almost dried up, and can hardly meet the water needs of residents for another fortnight.

Rawal Lake is an artificial lake mainly built on Korang River with several small streams flowing from Margalla Hills also diverted in it to increase the water flow in the lake. The lake is spread over an area of approximately nine square kilometres.

It is typical for the water level in the lake drop down in early summer. However, this time, however, the water level has gotten to an unusual low.

"There is currently no serious threat to the water level at the lake. There is enough water to supply water to Rawalpindi for 90-days," claimed an official from the Punjab Irrigation Department.

He added that the upcoming monsoon rain would refill the lake.

"The water cycle in this region ends in June and the monsoon begins in July," the official said. "Currently the water level in Rawal Lake is 1,736.4 feet, which is well above the dead level of 1,708 feet.”

Meanwhile, supply from the Simly Dam, one of the main sources of water for the capital, has been limited to only 50 per cent water of its regular supply owing to low levels.

CDA Water Supply Director Nasir Jamil stated that present water level in Simly Dam is 2,248 feet, which is near the dead level of 2,233 feet, explaining the limited water supply to the capital.

He said CDA is providing residents with 26 million gallons per day from Simly dam and 8 million gallons from the Khanpur dam.

Asked about using CDA’s tankers to solve the problem, he said that they receive over 1,000 complaints per day and they only have 21 tankers, which can barely tackle 50 per cent of those complaints.

With additional input from APP

 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2018.

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