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‘Water mafia sells 40pc of city’s water through tankers’

By Our Correspondent
March 16, 2018

Environmentalists have called for bringing an end to the water mafia in the city which, they said, sells 40 per cent of Karachi’s potable water through tankers, as well as for the establishment of at least three desalination plants to meet the mega-city’s growing need for the basic necessity.

Speaking at a discussion titled ‘Emerging Water Threats, Climate Change Burden and Chalking out Future Strategy’, Dr Muhammad Tariq, a water expert, also called for treating the 550 million gallons of sewage which is dumped into the sea before disposal, as the untreated sewage was killing marine life, potentially depriving the country of a reserve food source.

The media talk was organised by the Global Water Partnership South Asia in collaboration with environmental magazine Farozan at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

Speaking on the occasion, eminent environmentalist Dr Pervaiz Amir said that as many as “6,000 people” died in the week-long heatwave in Karachi in 2015 and more heatwaves were predicted to hit the city in the coming years because it had become a jungle of concrete with no flora and fauna.

Suggesting possible measures to deal with climate anomalies, he said, “Stop the influx of people to Karachi, plant trees and saplings, start rainwater harvesting and establish pools in the city where people could cool off in extremely hot weather.”

‘Stock up’

Amir stressed that Pakistan should construct as many dams as possible without going into their sizes, area and storage capacity because water would be the most precious commodity in the coming years.

He said the government should learn from the example of its regional neighbours, China and India, who have been spending billions of dollars on creating reservoirs to store as much water as possible.

“Indians are spending around Rs2 billion annually in Pakistan to stir opposition against establishment of larger dams, while it has created 500 large and medium-sized water reservoirs,” he claimed.

Even a clause of the Constitution has emerged as a major hurdle in the establishment of water reservoirs. Article 161 of the Constitution states that the royalty from hydro-electric power plants would be given to the province where the dam would be constructed, he said, adding that other provinces are opposing the creation of a major dam in Punjab because they think they would get nothing from it.

According to Amir, reservoirs [built for dams] would not deprive any province of its due share of water because dams store water and the provinces would get more water from the reservoirs as per 1991 water accord. He said India has been increasing its storage capacity and Pakistan should do the same too. “India receives 750 million acre feet (MAF) of water annually, of which it stores 287 MAF, while Pakistan gets 140 MAF through its rivers but its total storage capacity is merely 12.6 MAF,” Amir said.

He called for amending Article 161 which allots royalties to the province where the dam is constructed, saying that that will pave the way for the country to be able to build large reservoirs for water storage.

Muhammad Tariq called for conserving more water by establishing hundreds of dams across Pakistan and urged the authorities to immediately ban the harvesting of the water intensive crops. “Sugar cane and cotton consumes a majority of the water and in the end, their end products are exported at the cost of other essential crops,” he said.