A water crisis continues to plague the city but one of its main causes – illegal water hydrants – continue to function in different areas of the city.
Despite a number of drives to destroy illegal hydrants, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) has been unable to counter the water mafia that is being backed by some influential politicians.
To rub salt into the wounds, a large number of the water hydrants that the KWSB did manage to destroy in the drives have been re-established. These hydrants in Korangi, Banaras, Orangi and Baldia town are openly stealing water from the KWSB’s main pipeline, claimed a KWSB source.
“These hydrants are run by officials of the KWSB themselves, while a nexus of powerful politicians backs them” the source disclosed.
Political influence on KWSB
The water tanker welfare association’s general-secretary, Hazoor Ahmed, agreed that all hydrants are only functional with the approval of politicians, who take huge sums as bribes in order to look the other way.
However, while talking to The Express Tribune, Ahmed claimed that all functioning hydrants are legal. “We operate in different areas of the city with the permission of KWSB and local bodies minister Sharjeel Inam Memon,” he said.
Ahmed also claimed that the KWSB was demolishing these water hydrants illegally during the tenure of former local bodies minister Owais Muzafar. “We were able to settle our issues with the local bodies ministry and our hydrants have been allowed to function since.”
Ahmed said that the KWSB had issued tenders for water hydrants. “We followed all legal procedures and deposited cash into the KWSB’s account as per the tender,” he claimed. “If the KWSB wants us to shut down our hydrants then all they need to do is return our money. We are caught in the middle of a political power struggle; some of them want to demolish the hydrants, others want to keep them functional.”
Memon could not be contacted for his version of the story.
Chief engineer and KWSB water hydrants incharge Rashid Siddiqui confirmed that the demolished water hydrants have been re-established and blamed KWSB officials for their inefficiency. “These water hydrants have punctured KWSB’s main pipelines and operate openly” he said.
Discussing five hydrants in Korangi, the chief engineer said that the area comes under KWSB water trunk main chief engineer Zafar Palijo, who is incharge of the main water supply in the area. “Palijo should be held responsible for allowing these hydrants to function openly without taking any action against them.”
However, Palijo, when contacted, refuted the allegations. “The claims are false,” he said. “We recently disconnected seven illegal hydrants in the area. We know that two water hydrants in the area are functional while the rest of them have been demolished.”
Palijo added that the area is surrounded by a large number of slums, which makes it hard to detect illegal hydrants and urged people to inform the KWSB if they see illegal hydrants functioning in the area.
Water crisis due to illegal hydrants and leakages
According to the KWSB, the city is facing an estimated water shortage of 150 million gallons per day (MGD). The city needs 650 MGD of water but the KWSB is providing 500 MGD or less due to the lack of water in the Hub dam, existence of illegal water hydrants and the leakages in their main supply line.
Crisis in Defence and Clifton
According to Clifton Cantonment Board bulk water supply chief engineer Imran Khan, they are the main victims of the illegal water hydrants.
“The water hydrants in Korangi choked the main pipeline that is supposed to provide water to Defence and Clifton, so that we only receive half of the agreed quota of water from the KWSB” claimed Khan. “We are receiving 4.5 MGD in DHA and Clifton, instead of the agreed nine MGD. We have asked the KWSB’s managing director to demolish these hydrants but no action has been taken yet.”
Khan claimed that not only illegal water hydrants that are violating the KWSB’s code of procedure, but also the legal ones.
“These legal water hydrants are operating round the clock, instead of the eight hours that they are allowed,” he said. “They are directed to use only 800,000 MGD but are using three million MGD. Until or unless the KWSB is not freed from political influence, the situation cannot improve.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2014.