I didn’t grow up in a Karachi where water tanker services cost Rs6,000 or more. On the contrary, I distinctly recall a time when we paid a three-digit amount to ensure the steady flow of water to the taps in our houses. That was a different era, so to speak, but it was not very long ago either.
I was seven-years-old and had taken a short-lived interest in gardening. Every evening, I would insist on snatching the hose from the gardener and splashing gallons of water on plants, creepers and blossom. The gardener tolerated my shenanigans for little over a week. However, there came a day when he eventually disconnected the hose and told me, “Pani khatam hogaya (The water is finished)”. In retrospect, the abrupt realisation of a sudden drought filled me with childish rage. In the blink of an eye, my passion for gardening had run its course. I flung the hose aside and walked away.
Years later, when a water shortage looms large and tanker services do not pick my phone calls I am frequently reminded of that day. At that age, water was something I took for granted. For my child’s mind, it was an asset that would surpass the test of time and was therefore expendable. More often than not, I wonder how things would be if the world operated on the same logic as I did back then. Imagine how much easier life would become if people found a substitute to this precious resource. If a substitute could have been accepted with the same nonchalance, it would render futile all protests held outside government buildings and press clubs.
Unfortunately, this is little more than a fantasy. In a Karachi which appears to have lost sight of civic sense, water is a rare commodity with an exorbitant price. As if price tags weren’t a major stumbling block, the quality of water is polluted and is the breeding ground of many diseases. Furthermore, all of us have added fuel to the fire by wasting water on a daily basis. It is believed that the next global war will be fought over water. If this is so, will Karachi become the epicentre of this conflict?
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2015.