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SC blames corruption for city’s water crisis

By Jamal Khurshid
March 11, 2016

Apex court observes that problems plaguing KWSB can be done away with only if the administration decides to do so


The Supreme Court’s (SC) three-member bench hearing applications with respect to operation of illegal water hydrants in the city, on Thursday, observed that ill-governance and corruption had destroyed the port city's water supply system. 

The bench, headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim, also heard applications pertaining to illegal water supply connections and tampering of water lines of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) in different areas of the city.

The court inquired of KWSB Managing Director Misbahuddin Fareed as to why meters had not been installed to gauge and measure water supply to the city, including its industrial areas. The court further observed that water was in abundance but maladministration and corruption in the water utility had compelled citizens to buy water through tankers.

It also stated that pumping stations were outdated and no steps were taken to upgrade them.

The MD KWSB acknowledged that the pumping stations had the capacity to meet the water supply demand of the city.

The bench observed that KWSB’s affairs could be improved if its administration willed to do away with the problems plaguing the water board. It stressed on ensuring that water was supplied to

all residents of the city through the water utility and not through hydrants or tankers.

Member Provincial Assembly of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Syed Hafeezuddin, informed the court that after the permission to supply groundwater or sub-soil water was cancelled, the KWSB started supplying potable water to industries which was causing a shortage of water for people in his constituency, PS-93.

Adjourning the hearing till the next session, the court observed that it was the government’s job to streamline the functioning of its various departments but the judiciary had to sadly intervene in the larger interest of the public.

In a previous hearing over the matter, the SC had expressed its displeasure at the management of hydrants by the KWSB, and had directed the MD to explain through documents under which arrangement was the water supply being regulated through tankers. 

“The water board appears to have been selling water through contractors [tankers’ owners] and they do not have any scheme to serve the interest of the residents of Karachi,” the bench had observed. 

“The purpose for creating hydrants was different than the purpose for which the supply of water is being made in Karachi city,” it said.

It directed the managing director to justify the increase in the number of water tankers in the recent past when there was a huge hue and cry over a shortage of water in different areas of the city.

The court inquired the officer in-charge of the KWSB’s hydrant operation about the mechanism for running the hydrants.

The office submitted that there were 24 legal hydrants in the city, out of which 21 were operational while the remaining three, one each in Korangi, Lasbela and Ahsanabad, had been made dysfunctional by the managing director due to a shortage of water in the main water lines. 

To a court query about the policy under which the hydrants were regulated, he said the hydrants were operated under a standard operating procedure of August 25, 2009.