Water protests erupted in several areas of the city on Thursday, with angry people blocking roads and burning tyres in protest against the authorities’ apathy towards their plight. Protesters complained of water shortages resulting from a growing demand as temperatures rise as well as from electricity outages at the Dhabeji pumping station.
The most disruptive of these protests was reported from the Gulbahar area, where men, women and children burnt tyres and blocked main roads in protest against an acute water shortage in their locality over the past week. The enraged protesters stayed on the roads for several hours and also forced shopkeepers of a nearby market to close their businesses for the day.
“For the last 10 days, we have not been receiving water in our taps and this is causing extreme problems for us. Our children are unable to go to school and our men unable to go to work,” said a protesting woman.
“We are poor people and cannot afford water tankers that charge exorbitant rates,” she added.The closure of roads in Gulbahar caused a massive traffic jam on Nawab Siddique Ali Khan Road and in adjoining areas, and inconvenienced motorists and commuters.
The protesters claimed that their problems had been intensified by unscheduled outages being resorted to by the KESC in their area. They demanded of the city and provincial authorities to resolve the problem at the earliest.
Several enraged youths pelted shops and passing vehicles with stones to vent their anger, which prompted police and Rangers to rush to the scene and engage the protesters in negotiations to end their demonstration and clear the road.
Senior police officials led-by Deputy Superintendent Police (DSP) Rustam Khattak, spoke to the protesters and assured them that their complaints of water and electricity shortages would be conveyed to the authorities concerned. They also persuaded them to end their protest.
A similar protest was witnessed on the National Highway near Malir Halt, where protesters from areas on both sides of the highway lit bonfire. The protesters were residents of Model Colony, Aminabad, Gulshan-e-Amina, Tariq Bin Ziyad Colony, Gulistan-e-Kazim and several other adjoining areas.
Some of the protesters carried empty water bottles as an expression of the difficulties they were facing. Police were able to disperse the protesters from the National Highway after negotiations.
Meanwhile, residents from different localities in Baldia Town and along a Hub River road also blocked main roads in their areas for several hours in protest over water shortages. They demanded that their localities be provided with water on a daily basis, as the lack of water had become a serious problem in their areas.
Residents of DHA, Defence View, Clifton, Muslimabad, Garden and Golimar have been facing the same problem for the last three to four days. Some said they were unable to purchase water through tankers as the tanker mafia was exploiting the situation by increasing rates.
The Clifton Cantonment Board and Cantonment Board Faisal have warned their residents to prepare themselves for water shortages as they are receiving a small quantity if water from the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board due to loadshedding at its Dhabeji pumping station.
Both the cantonment boards have placed banners and published advertisements in newspapers, asking their residents to practise water conservation.Meanwhile, in light of the increase in rates by the tanker mafia, a number of people who depend on tankers to meet their needs complained that the water board and city authorities should take notice of water being supplied to citizens at unaffordable prices.
Managing Director (MD) KWSB Misbahuddin Farid told The News on Thursday that an acute water shortage would be experienced in different areas of the city due to power cuts at the Dhabeji pumping station.
“I have repeatedly warned the authorities and people that riots will breakout in the city if the KESC does not stop loadshedding at the Dhabeji pumping station. Unfortunately, no one has taken me seriously. I fear the worst is still to come as far as water shortage is concerned,” he added.
Farid claimed that daily power outages at the pumping station had severely damaged valves on the main water supply lines, sensitive machinery, and electric pumps and that the situation would soon be out of the control of the water board’s engineers.
“The Greater Karachi Conduit, which was laid down in 1958, has also been endangered due to the daily loadshedding and the resulting water shortage in the city. I want to warn the people that if this conduit is damaged, people will be wishing for drops of water in their taps,” he said.
In response to a query, he said that the KWSB was a welfare organisation that was providing water to the citizens despite all hurdles, while the KESC, being a corporate and commercial entity, was depriving the people of electricity and water to earn profits at all costs.The KESC has repeatedly rejected the KWSB’s claims as baseless.