Water fight: Owners of private tankers give 24-hour ultimatum

Published: March 9, 2012
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The water board has been asked to reopen the 19 hydrants it closed last month. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD AZEEM/EXPRESS

The water board has been asked to reopen the 19 hydrants it closed last month. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD AZEEM/EXPRESS

KARACHI: 

The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) could be dealing with thousands of tankers parked outside its office at Awami Markaz if the water hydrants are not reopened within 24 hours.

“The water board cannot meet the Karachi’s on its own,” said the Karachi Water Tanker Owners Welfare Association’s (KWTOWA) general secretary, Hazoor Ahmed Khan, at a press conference on Thursday. “It needs us to supply water to thousands of industries and households.”

KWSB closed 19 hydrants last month which sucked water from the main underground pipelines and provided them to the tankers. The water was then supplied by the tankers to areas facing water shortage.

“We were paying for the water,” Khan said while accusing the board of not taking any action against the numerous illegal hydrants in the city. “Tankers are still providing water but the only difference is that it is illegal and commissions are being collected.”

Karachi’s total water consumption stands at 650 million gallons per day (MGD) whereas the demand is 1080 MGD. Factories in industrial estates and houses in Defence, Korangi, Orangi and Nazimabad are dependent on tankers to meet their water demand.

In justification of the closure, KWSB said that hydrants were sprouting all over the city, causing water pressure to drop in the pipelines. “Situation was getting out of control and we had to do something about it,” said the KWSB managing director, Misbahuddin Farid.

There are at least 100 illegal hydrants in the city, said KWSB officials. “We have registered nearly 100 FIRs against those who run illegal hydrants, but the police let them off the hook because water theft is a bailable offence.”

Money talk(s)

One reason behind the failure of KWSB in stopping the illegal hydrants is the money that could be made in the business, alleged Hazoor Khan of the KWTOWA.

A hydrant normally runs for 12 hours, pumping 1,500 gallons per minute which comes up to the sale of 1.08 million gallons per day from one pump. The tanker owners buy one gallon for Rs0.125 and sell it to the customers at Rs0.35, which means they buy water for Rs135,000 and sell it for Rs378,000 from one pump in a day. In most cases, one hydrant has four or five filling points, which pump water from the pipelines and transfer it to the tankers, informed Khan. “All of them supply at least 1,500 gallons per minute.”

There is no exact figure of the earnings through legal or illegal hydrants, but KWTOWA and KWSB officials said that billions of rupees are being made in the business.

“The illegal hydrants are installed with the help of KWSB officials,” accused a member of the association, Shah Ji. “We are talking about drilling holes in a 36-inch diameter pipeline. It is an engineering job.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2012.

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