Private water supply scheme: Public service or illegal business?

Rawalpindi citizen supplying water to residential areas without licence, payment of taxes.

Fawad Ali July 21, 2013
Rawalpindi citizen supplying water to residential areas without licence, payment of taxes. PHOTO: FILE


When opportunity knocks, start digging. The failure of the district government to provide drinking water to residents has resulted in an opportunity for an influential local resident. The resident has installed a tube-well on his property, laid pipelines, and is now providing water to local residents.

There would be no major problem there, except for the fact that he is charging them for it, and is running the business without government approval.

Malik Nasir installed the tube-well on his property without permission from the district government, then laid pipelines to supply water to the residents of Christian Colony, Bismillah Abad and Barfkhana, Chak Jalaldin, Girja Road and Misriyal Road. If there is a problem with the piplines, his uncle, Liaqat Hussain, the owner of a water tanker fleet, supplies water to the residents of the areas.

Nasir has also installed water meters outside his clients’ houses and is charging between Rs600 and Rs1,000 per month.

Unfortunately, while locals are getting water now, they are still thirsting for quality service delivery.

“He collects millions of rupees every month in terms of utility bills, but only provides water for four-days-a-week,” said Sufian, a resident of Christian Colony.

Other residents of the areas complained that there is no proper schedule for water supply. “Sometimes supply remains unavailable for two or three days, forcing us to fetch water from other tube wells,” said Hazrat Sher, another resident of Christian Colony.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Azam, a resident of Burfkhana, said that water is supplied for four-days-a -week, “forcing us to request water tankers, for which they charge extra fees”.

Unsurprisingly, the bowsers owned by Nasir’s uncle Liaqat Hussain are the ones delivering the water. He charges Rs800 per tanker.

“You have to deposit Rs6,000 in advance for a water connection,” Sher said, adding that they (Nasir) disconnect the connection if the bill is even slightly delayed.

The Express Tribune has learnt that the Nasir has no legal documents to operate the tube-wells or run a water supply business. When contacted, Nasir claimed he had gotten approval from the Punjab Health Department, but could provide no legal documents as proof.

He shifted the subject to the district government, saying it had installed several tube-wells which ran dry after a few months.

“Then I gave my own property for digging a well, and the project succeeded,” he said.

He also readily admitted that he was paying no taxes, saying that he was charging a nominal price of Rs25 per unit after consuming 20 to 25 gallons of water.  “No one has asked me to pay tax, so why should I bother,” he said.

He said he is providing water to at least 30,000 people in the area, which the district government has failed to do. Speaking on the phone, Acting District Coordination Officer Talat Mehmood Gondal did not know of the ‘water project’, saying he would look into the issue before hanging up.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.