Diving into Mubarak Village: Dilemmas of a dried dam

A family spends an average of Rs2,000 a month depending upon its size


PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI:


A community that lives on the shore of Arabia Sea is forced to buy water from the main city as the only source of potable water in the area - a small dam - has dried up.


Mubarak Village, with its nearly 7,000 inhabitants, dates back to nearly 200 years and, unfortunately, appears as old. The families do not have access to potable water and have to buy water to drink and prepare food. A family spends an average of Rs2,000 a month depending upon its size.

Like other members of the community, Khuda Ganj Shaad also buys a third of a water tanker for Rs2,000 and tries to make it last the whole month. There are 12 members in Shaad’s family who have to manage with this much water.



In the year 2000, a small dam was built to help the fishing community get clean water and resolve one of the biggest issues facing the community. A pumping station was also set up so that the community can get water at their doorsteps through pipelines. So far, there has been no progress.

The dam no longer looks the part as it has lost 70 per cent of its capacity due to sedimentation. “It was more than 20 per cent deep [than what we see now],” pointed out Shaad, who lives very close to the dam. “It is the only water reservoir here,” he added.

Even at its current capacity, the dam can provide water for up to three months if it is filled with rainwater. “If it is cleaned and restored to its original capacity, it can give us water for a whole year,” said Shaad.

There is an element of fear among the residents as the dam has not been looked after in several years. “It has lost its original capacity and will sweep away dozens of houses if there are heavy rains this year,” he said.



The moderate rain in 2014 was not enough and the dam was dry even before Eidul Azha. “We are [a part of] Karachi in the revenue records but aren’t actually [considered] a part of the city,” complained another villager, Sarfaraz Haroon.

The community remembers that money was sanctioned for the dam in the budget. During the tenure of former city nazim Niamatullah Khan, Rs4.5 million were spent, and then another Rs7.5 million when Mustafa Kamal became the mayor.

When the dam used to have water, it was the job of the women and children to get water. Now that it has dried up, the responsibility lies with the men. They have to fetch water tankers from the main city and then they store the water in underground tanks built near the house.

Until the dam stays dry, the women and children bathe on the beach or use the stagnant water near the dam to clean their clothes. “No one uses water carelessly,” said another villager, Manzoor Baloch. “We depend upon rainfall and pray that it is enough to make the dam overflow,” he added.

Choice to make

Baloch pointed out that they would gladly spend money on the health and education of their children if they didn’t have to set aside most of their income to buy water.

Even the elders remember how there was no water shortage in Mubarak Village even 30 years ago. “We used to get water from the wells some 20 years ago,” said Badil Baloch. Badil and his friend, Abdul Rehman, believe the lack of rain made the well dry up.

“There was a time when we were unable to go to Karachi during the monsoon season,” recalled Rehman. “We had everything when there was water in our wells,” he said, linking their prosperity to the availability of water.

The young men of the community find a solution in reverse-osmosis (RO) plants. “If the wells are dried up and there is no water in the dam, the only option left is to invest in an RO plant,” said Haroon. “It’s the government’s responsibility to help its people. We have enough [sea] water but we can’t use it.”

hospital for our women before my death.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2015.

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