Gwadar, the city of countless promises, seems to have shed its promising epithet.
The sole source of water supply to the inhabitants of Gwadar has dried up — completely.
The Ankara Kaur Dam – built in 1993 and stretching over an area of 17,000 acres – has dried up due to massive siltation. The crisis worsened in 2006 when the population increased in the winter capital of Balochistan.
Gwadar town and Jiwani, constituting 50% of the total population of Gwadar district, rely entirely on the Ankara Kaur Dam for all their water needs while residents of the other three coastal towns of Pasni, Ormara and Sunt Sar are dependent upon seasonal rivers.
The dam – a water reservoir on the Ankara River near Gwadar – is facing siltation issues 20 years after its construction. The dam was built with international assistance to augment drinking water for the residents at a cost of Rs560 million.
As water shortage creeps in, people are forced to buy water from tankers — a water tanker is being sold at a staggering cost which, too, is brought from hundreds of miles away.
The severe water crisis has fizzled out the chief minister’s ambitious plan for the city which hogged international limelight for its unique deep-sea port.
Gwadar Deputy Commissioner (DC) Sohail Baloch has said that the current population of Gwadar and Jiwani is around 0.2 million and the daily water requirement is 3.5 million gallons. Official data suggests that the port city is supplied only 2 million gallons of water every four days. He told The Express Tribune that authorities have planned a few schemes on an “emergency basis” to ameliorate the situation.
“The Sunt Sar Water Supply Scheme is being launched at a cost of Rs350 million and will be completed in two months,” said Baloch. Under the scheme, 10,000 gallons of water per hour will be provided but experts say that this will not be sufficient to meet the full demand of the local population, let alone the needs of the commercial establishments and the port.
The DC pointed out that plans to connect Gwadar with Mirani Dam in Kech District were also in the pipeline — a project which will cost an estimated Rs4 billion. “If this plan materialises, the Mirani Dam will be able to provide a minimum of 5 million gallons of water per day.”
Earlier, Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani had said that his government was “serious” about the Gwadar water issue and is considering providing water from the Mirani Dam but certain political parties raised objections to this plan.
Meanwhile, Balochistan National Party (BNP- Awami) leader Kahuda Babar from Gwadar told The Express Tribune that life at the 110-120 km long coastline of Gwadar is directly affected by the shortage of drinking water. “The immediate solution is that the government should make a desalination plant in the Gwadar Industrial Estate. That will be able to give around 0.2 million gallons of water per day,” said Babar.
But residents of Gwadar do not seem keen to wait and see if the government will fulfil its promises.
An All Parties Conference (APC) has organised a protest camp to highlight this issue. They will stage a demonstration in front of the DC’s office on Saturday, take out a rally on July 8 and observe a wheel-jam strike on July 12.
A local resident, Hafeez Dashti, says water tankers are not a permanent solution. “The Balochistan Development Authority (BDA) was supposed to install a desalination plant in Gwadar by December 2010. But work at the site has stopped,” he said.
For decades now the population of Gwadar has remained more or less static since the 1960s — additional population has been forced to move to other areas of Karachi, Gulf, Muscat and other parts of Mekran in search of drinking water, says Ilahi Bakhsh, a senior resident of Gwadar.
If Gwadar is to become the city of countless promises for the world, it must first be able to retain its own people — without water, Gwadar is nothing but a ghost town.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2012.