Water is life — more so in the times of the coronavirus pandemic when keeping washed and clean is one important precaution to keep the deadly virus at bay. Ironically, water is not available, as per the needs, in a large part of the country. Karachi, despite being the most modern city of the country, has also to struggle for water. The problem of water shortage afflicts Karachi residents throughout the year, but it becomes acute during summer months. With temperatures rising above 40 degrees Celsius in the second week of Ramazan, many areas in the city are experiencing an acute shortage of water, particularly Nazimabad, Malir and Baldia Town, and Pak Colony. In this hot weather, there are areas in district West where people get water in their home taps after 30-45 days. The prolonged lockdown has, however, also proved a blessing as water supply has improved in several blocks of Gulistan-e-Jauhar, F B Area, Gulshan-e-Iqal and other neighbourhoods. People in scarcity areas are somehow meeting their requirements by purchasing expensive water tankers.
Karachi’s population is 25 million. The city needs around 12,000 million gallons water per day (mgd) but it gets only 550mgd, which is less than half of its needs. Moreover, a considerable amount of water is lost due to leakages in the supply lines and poor maintenance of the supply system. It is a paradox that though in many areas taps at homes are dry for months together, enough water is always available through tankers and in cans. Residents of water-deficit areas find themselves in a double bind. They buy expensive water tanker and, at the same time, pay the water bills of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board. They have to pay the Water Board bills for fear of severance of connection. Public representatives say at present consumers receive only 60% of the water being supplied and the remaining 40% is either lost due to leakages or theft. It is not difficult to know where the stolen water or that shown as lost because of leakages goes.
The K-1V water supply scheme is aimed at easing the water shortage, but it has run into problems difficult to surmount. Much of these problems stems from official apathy and mismanagement. The water scarcity is, for the most part, man-made.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2020.
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