After losing water from the taps in their homes, residents must brace for the water crisis to worsen as the tankers are short on supply as well.
Parts of North Nazimabad, North Karachi including Surjani Town, Sakhi Hassan, Federal B Area, Buffer Zone, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and adjoining areas have been grappling with acute water shortage for the last 10 days.
Making their peace with the dried water lines, the residents were buying water tankers to fulfil their needs. These tankers used to get their fill from hydrants in various parts of the city but these hydrants are also running dry now allegedly due to excessive power breakdowns in the city.
Muhammad Shakeel, a resident of North Karachi Sector 7-D makes his way to the hydrant at Sakhi Hassan every day after Fajr prayers. "I stood in line for three hours to get the tankers at concessional rates [that the government promised before Eid]," he said. Shakeel managed to get a token number but, after four hours, he was told that there will be no water tankers making their way to his house. He was told there is no water at the hydrant.
"It's been 10 days and there is no water supply in my area," he said, adding that they were completely dependent on water tankers. "Now that the tankers are also devoid of water, where should we go for water now?" he asked, pointing out that he regularly pays his water bill.
Afzal, a resident of Shafiq Morr, said Karachi has become like Thar. "Every morning, we have to make our way to the water hydrants in search of water, like the women of Tharparkar make their way to the wells to fill their water pots," he said with a wry smile on his face.
It had been five days without water in their supply line that Afzal decided to make his way to the Sakhi Hasan hydrant. "Later, I went to Qalandria Chowk, where the water tanker operator was demanding Rs4,500 for a tanker, which I cannot afford," he said.
The tanker owners at Qalandria Chowk are fetching water from Manghopir, where there is water available from Hub Dam. One of the tanker owners, Pervaiz, said they are charging high rates because they get water from far away.
Before Eid holidays, the government had announced with much fanfare that it will be supplying free-of-charge tankers to areas hit worst by the shortage. But it failed to honour the promise. "My job was to only monitor the free water tanker service in Karachi but it was halted on the third day of Eid due to power breakdowns," said the additional commissioner of district Central, Shujaat Ali.
With residents grappling with the worsening crisis, the authorities continue to blame everyone but themselves. The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) and K-Electric (KE) point fingers at each other.
"For the last two days, Karachi is facing a shortfall of 150MGD and it will definitely have its adverse impact on citizens," said KWSB technical deputy managing director Iftikhar Ahmed Khan. Khan even went on to reprimand citizens for not using water efficiently when they were aware of the water crisis.
"During the power outage, the pumps stops working, leaving no water in the lines and that creates problems," he pointed out.
KWSB spokesperson Nazir Mateen said that electricity supply to the Dhabeji pumping station could not be restored even after 17 hours. "Five out of 22 pumps are out of order," he said.
For their part, KE dismissed all the criticisms levelled against them. According to KE spokesperson Osama Qureshi, only one cable out of the 16 feeders of the KWSB is out of order. "They must have a few pumps for back up in case of power breakdown," he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2015.