Committee formed to combat water crisis in Karachi

Published: July 6, 2019
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PHOTO: FILE

PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Various stakeholders, members of political parties and representatives of the business community, agreed to reduce the water loss in Karachi by 30%, which adds up to about 174 MGD of water, and take administrative measures for controlling water theft. The consensus was reached after an hour-long debate on water crisis in Karachi, in a meeting chaired by the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, at the New Sindh Secretariat on Friday.

It was decided during the meeting that a committee, comprising one representative from all groups of stakeholders, will be formed and will work towards reducing water loss, controlling water theft and improving the water distribution system in the city in the short-term. The notification for the formation of the committee will be issued by the local government department.

CM Murad discusses Karachi water woes

Water woes

Addressing the meeting, CM Murad said that the water crisis was getting worse in Karachi. “Only 480 MGD of water is available to the city, when the actual requirement is of 1,000 MGD,” he said. Reflecting on the unequal distribution of water in the port city, Murad said, “All will benefit if equal distribution of water is ensured, and if not, while some will be able to quench their thirst, others will die of it.”

“It is up to us to decide whether we favour a selected few or make joint efforts to overcome water shortage,” he said.

On the directives of the chief minister, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board Managing Director Asadullah Khan briefed the participants on the present condition of water crisis in Karachi.

K-IV project

K-IV Project Director Asad Zamin also brief the meeting about the issues and probable solutions, related to the execution of the project.

The feasibility report of the project was carried out in 2007, according to which the cost of the project was estimated to be Rs25.5 billion. Nine routes for the supply of water were recommended in the report, out of which eight routes, considered to be more technically viable and economical, supplying water via Dhabeji, were approved. It was also decided that the project would be carried out in three phases: 260MGD of water would be supplied in the first phase, 260MGD in the second phase and 130 MGD in the third phase.

The estimated cost of the project, commenced in 2007, has since remained unchanged, regardless of the increasing inflation.

In order to expedite the K-IV’s completion, the Sindh government has given the contract for the project to Frontier Works Organisation (FWO). FWO’s initial bid for the project was Rs42 billion. However, it excluded the cost of ancillary work, construction of bridges and staff colonies, workshops, power supply and augmentation.

Zamin informed the attendees of the meeting that in order to find solutions to problems hampering the completion of the project, he had organised a multi-party conference, in which both political and non-political stakeholders would participate.

The project was approved in 2014 and it was decided back then that 50% of the project would be financed by the Sindh government and remaining 50% funds would be provided by the federal government.

Recommendations

Speaking in this regard, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar opined that even if the K-IV project is completed, the government still wouldn’t be able to ensure sufficient water supply to the citizens as the real problem was the obsolete and defective water distribution system. He said that the government needs to invest in the construction of new infrastructure of the distribution system and urged KWSB to dismiss those from its staff who have failed to deliver.

Mohammad Hussain of Muttahida Qaumi Movement- Pakistan (MQM-P) also stressed the need to improve the water distribution system and lamented that Karachi is neglected despite paying billions of rupees to the Federal Board of Revenue and Sindh Revenue Board.

Meanwhile, addressing the meeting, Sindh Assembly opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi suggested that KWSB work on improving transparency and governance, so as to curb water losses. He also said that the government should take measures for recycling water, which can then be supplied to industries and other places, as required.

MQM-P leader Khwaja Izhar said that the solution to curbing water loss is to control water theft and suggested that FIRs should be registered against those found to be involved in the misdeed.

Members of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Javed Bilwani and Zubair Motiwala remarked that since people don’t pay their water bills, measures need to be taken to improve the financial condition of KWSB and complained that lines classified for supplying water to the industries are being used for other purposes.

Mustaqeem Noorani of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan said that only those who can afford should be charged for water and the poor may only pay up to Rs 20 for a small container of water.

According to Zubair Motiwala, water requirement of the city’s industrial areas amounts to 174MGD, which can be met by recycling the sewage water that is disposed of into the sea. He also said that despite paying bills, industrialists are accused of water theft.

Former mayor of Karachi, Mustafa Kamal, addressed the chief minister of Karachi and asked him to initiate an augmentation project in the city. He also said that it was important to lay water supply lines under every road, constructed as a part of the Karachi package.

Government initiatives

The Chief Minister informed the meeting that a 50MGD recycling plant was being negotiated to supply water to the industries. He also revealed that a 5MGD desalination plant was also under construction, through which water would be supplied to DHA. “We are working for the installation of a larger desalination plant at Hub,” he added.

Murad said that he was negotiating with Hubco for the construction of a 1,300MW power plant, which would be dedicated to supplying power to Karachi. The chief minister expressed the hope that it would resolve the power crisis in the city. Murad Ali Shah also said that he would talk to the prime minister, during his next visit to Karachi, on July 12, about K-IV and desalination projects to be setup in Hub.

During the meeting, chief minister directed KWSB officials to flush its water reservoirs, improve the billing and recoveries system, make an appropriate and equitable water distribution plan, take measures fo water conservation and install a recycling water plant.

‘Dying’ of thirst: Farmers march 150kms in quest for water

In his concluding remarks, the chief minister said that he would again invite the participants of the meeting next month when NESPAK would submit its report. “I will take all of you into confidence and seek your input for the realisation of the K-IV project,” he said.

Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani, Adviser to CM on Information Murtaza Wahab, Special Assistants to CM Waqar Mehdi and Rashid Rabbani, Local Government Secretary Khalid Hyder Shah, KWSB Managing Director Asadullah Khan and others attended the meeting.

The delegates who attended the meeting included Haleem Adil Shaikh and Junaid Shah of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami National Party’s Shahi Syed and Younis Buneri, Pak Sarzameen Party members Arshad Vohra, Asif Hasnain, Saifuddin and Junaid Mukati from Jamaat-e-Islami,  Ahmed Shah of Karachi Arts Council, Imtiaz Faran of Karachi Press Club and others.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2019.

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