No permanent water supply solution in sight as KWSB auctions off six hydrants

January 27, 2023

The Procurement Committee Hydrants Cell of the Karachi Water & Sewerage Board completed the first phase of the auction of six hydrants of the water board on Thursday. According to a press statement...

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The Procurement Committee Hydrants Cell of the Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KWSB) completed the first phase of the auction of six hydrants of the water board on Thursday. According to a press statement issued by the KWSB, all rules and regulations for the auction were followed and transparency was ensured.

Incharge Hydrants Cell Elahi Bakhsh Bhutto told The News that 22 companies participated in the auction process and the water board sold 106 tenders.

A water commission mandated by the Supreme Court of Pakistan had allowed the board to run a single hydrant in every district of the city. Six of the seven districts have a hydrant each, but the newly carved out District Keamari does not have one yet. The KWSB would make a separate hydrant for Keamari.

There are two more hydrants: a static hydrant for the Pakistan Army and the National Logistics Cell (NLC), and the other installed specifically for Baldia Town on the water commission’s orders that is run once a week.

The auction, however, took place for the former six hydrants. Bhutto explained how a few companies showed interest in winning tenders for more than one hydrant, and that is why they sold a total of 106 hydrants. “A few big companies purchased tenders of all the six hydrants.”

The board issues tenders for the hydrants’ operation every two years. According to the previous agreement of the winning companies with the KWSB, they were bound to grant 45 per cent of the water to the public and 55 per cent for commercial purposes. Now the commercial and public shares are 50 per cent each.

The process of tender is huge. Bhutto shared how they need a fleet of at least 60 water tankers from the winning company. “If a company has 59 water tankers, they would be disqualified immediately.”

The winning company, he said, would have to supply 50 per cent of the water tanker service for the general public service and 50 per cent for commercial purposes. He shared that as per the agreement, they have a special quota known as the Chief Minister Free Tanker Service, which is used at the discretion of the deputy commissioner.

The DC of any district, he said, informs the KWSB about the scarcity of water in any area under their jurisdiction, and the water board ensures that the company operating the hydrant for that particular area does not charge any fee for the water supply.

The CM House issued a summary in this regard in 2015, and according to that summary, the billing of the CM quota at the discretion of the DC has to be borne by the provincial government. Since then the KWSB has an outstanding bill of Rs3 billion that needs to be paid by the provincial government.

The tender agreement has also a clause for welfare, emergency such as water required for extinguishing fire, water required for major exhibitions at the Expo Centre, free of charge. Apart from this, the contractors are bound to give water from the hydrant for free for social causes such as religious processions.

Tenders were supposed to be submitted until 12pm on Thursday, and by 1pm the verification process of the tenders started. Bhutto shared how there is a token money of Rs10 million that is refundable. “We charge this token money so that we get genuine contractors.”

The procurement committee that has seven members will work on the verification process. The convener of the committee is a grade-20 KWSB chief engineer, a grade-18 secretary procurement, the incharge hydrants cell, a representative of the commissioner Karachi, a grade-19 KWSB superintendent engineer and a grade-19 KWSB director planning.

There are a total of seven hydrants. The Sherpao Hydrant is near Steel Mills Morr that supplies water to District South. Then there is a hydrant at Landhi named the Landhi Future Pumping Station.

As for the Sherpao Hydrant, its last auction took place in 2020, but another company went in litigation against the auction and a stay was granted that was abolished in March 2022 in favour of the company that had won the tender in the first place.

In April 2022 a work order was issued for the Sherpao Hydrant that will end in 2024, and that is why Bhutto said they were auctioning off six hydrants.

He said that there is pressure to close down the Landhi Future Pumping Station because the people of the area believe that due to the presence of that hydrant they do not get water.

Now that hydrant would be moved to the Super Highway at the KWSB’s North-East Karachi (NEK) Pumping Station. To facilitate its consumers, he said, the KWSB has decided that the hydrant would only cater to the people of the area in which it is situated.

The Sherpao Hydrant that was earlier supplying water to District South would supply water to Landhi and Korangi, and its end would be at Qayyumabad Chowrangi.

As for District South, the Nipa Hydrant would cater to it. The new water hydrant at the NEK station would supply water to District East, while the Safoora Hydrant would supply water to District Malir.

The Crush Plant Hydrant at Manghopir Road would supply water to District West, and a new Crush Plant Hydrant-I would be constructed at the same location to supply water to District Keamari. The Sakhi Hassan Hydrant would supply water to District Central.

As for the Baldia Town Hydrant, the official said that nothing has been decided for its auction. The KWSB might run it from its own resources or it could be made part of the District West Hydrant.

Regarding the Pakistan Army-run hydrant, the official said the NLC pays its monthly bill to them, and they operate it as per their discretion. After the evaluation of the technical bid on Thursday, Bhutto said tenders would be awarded to the best bidders by the middle or end of February.

The KWSB, he said, has set a reserve price of Rs450 per 1,000 gallons, and the bidders are required to bid more than that. Once the financial bid is closed, he said, the work order would be issued in 15 days.

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director KWSB Engineer Syed Salahuddin Ahmed said they have taken better measures to modernise the hydrants cell and to provide better facilities to the citizens.

Due to complete rules, regulations and transparency in the KWSB Hydrants Cell, he said, a large number of new aspirants including old hydrants companies, contractors and owners participated in the auction.

Ahmed said that providing clean and healthy water to the citizens is among their top priorities. Therefore, despite its limited resources, effective and good measures are being taken by the KWSB to provide better facilities to the citizens.

The NED University’s Dr Noman Ahmed said that the problem with the hydrant auctions is that the participants are generally influential people, and they monopolise the entire process. The new entrants in the business, he said, find it difficult to break their hegemony.

The KWSB, however, by making the tendering process transparent and ensuring that all their specifications are met, could make a difference, he added. He said hydrants are supposed to be used as emergency services, so the KWSB must ensure that water pipelines are considered their essential service under any circumstances.

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