Precious commodity: KWSB accused of manipulating city’s water shortage

SHC directs its MD to file comments on petition accusing water board of 'creating' artificial crisis

The UHRCP general secretary has filed a petition, accusing the KWSB of using the city’s water shortage to increase their own profits. PHOTO: AYSHA SALEEM/EXPRESS

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed on Wednesday the managing director of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) to submit comprehensive comments regarding the water crisis experienced by residents in the port city.

A division bench, comprising justices Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Muhammad Faisal Kamal Alam, directed the water utility's chief to submit his reply by November 24.

The two-judge bench was hearing a petition filed by the United Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's general secretary, Rana Faizul Hasan, seeking action against the KWSB officials allegedly creating an artificial water crisis, in connivance with illegally set-up private hydrant operators, to make money by selling the commodity.

In the petition filed last year, the petitioner had alleged that the local government officers of the KWSB and the Karachi Municipal Corporation were behind the persistent shortage of water in the metropolis so that the mafia could steal water and then sell it to citizens at exorbitant rates. He argued that the citizens were experiencing an acute shortage of water as the mafia was not only actively stealing the essential commodity but also selling it to industrialists.

Hasan alleged that the KWSB's 'valve men' do not release water in their localities, instead forcing citizens to buy water from the tanker mafia.

Domestic water sold to industries

The petitioner also claimed that around six million gallons of water from the domestic quota is being stolen in the city's West zone every day and then sold to industries to earn profits of up to Rs7.2 million. Similarly, around eight million gallons are stolen from the domestic quota in Site every month and then sold to the industries for Rs200 million, Hasan claimed.

Unauthorised hydrants

The petitioner had also claimed that legal water hydrants run by the KWSB are supposed to conduct their operations for four hours every day but the contractors, who are awarded contracts by the KWSB to operate these hydrants, are operating them beyond the fixed hours. The legal hydrants at Nipa Chowrangi, Garden and Sakhi Hasan are involved in excessive operations, where more than one suction pump is being used to draw water, he added.

Under the official policy adopted in 2010 regarding water hydrants, KWSB is responsible to legally award tenders to private contractors to run its water hydrants. However, there are 117 illegal water hydrants operating across the metropolis, details of which may be called from the board's managing director (MD), claimed Hasan.

He argued that easy access to basic amenities, such as water, is the fundamental right of every citizen, as guaranteed under Articles 4, 8, 9 and 25 of the Constitution but the authorities are failing to protect such rights.

On October 27, another bench, headed by Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, had directed the KWSB MD to file his comments. However, during Wednesday's proceedings, no such comments were filed. Advocate Sultan Ahmed, who represented the KWSB, requested more time to file comments.

Allowing time till November 24, the bench directed the KWSB MD to file comprehensive comments regarding the persisting water shortage in the city by the next date of the hearing.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2015.



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