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Water crisis for citizens but big profits for mafia

Karachi

June 4, 2015

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Karachi
The citizens of Karachi continue to suffer because of water shortage in the scorching summer heat while the ultimate beneficiaries of this situation remain the water tanker trucks operators and the hydrant mafia that are involved in water theft and responsible for the existing crisis.
Tanker operators siphon water from hydrants that is stolen from the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board system and it is then sold at exorbitant rates in the posh areas while the poor localities remain without the commodity.
Most of the people affected by the crisis have no other option but to purchase bottled water ranging between Rs25 and Rs60 for drinking and cooking purpose and then the bottled water mafia earns huge profits.
The consumers living in middle-class localities purchase 18- or 20-litre bottles further feeling the financial crunch.
A large number of households use underground water, although it is unfit for human consumption, cleaning kitchen utensils, washing clothes and bathing.
The KWSB authorities claim that power outages frequently occur at pumping stations and this affects the supply. When power outages occur there, leakages start in the pipelines because of the water pressure in the system. Similarly, when this occurs in the main supply lines, they burst and it is difficult to repair them.

A collapsed system
The KWSB authorities claim that all their pumps are outdated and do not work properly.
No parts are available for these pumps and this caused the disruption of the 60MGD supply while water at the Hub Dam has almost dried up from 100MGD was being provided to the city. The 30 percent line losses are also responsible for the crisis.
The city requires 1,000MGD but the availability of water is 490MGD and the authorities claim that 60 percent of water supply has been affected because of these factors.
A senior bureaucrat, Hashid Raza Zaidi, posted for a second time in a year for improving the KWSB affairs, said

the water utility’s system had totally collapsed and not workable because of many reasons including politics.
He said the major crisis is the shortage of budget as the recovery of the water bill was only Rs2 billion and this amount was utilised for paying salaries and other expenses while funds were required for revamping the system.
He said over the population of the city had increased in the last few years because of the arrival of the internally displaced persons from the country’s tribal areas following the launch of a military operation there and that was also among the reasons behind the water shortage.

Tanker system
Thousands of water tanker trucks ply the city’s roads round the clock.
During a debate in the Sindh Assembly, it was disclosed that water tanker owners earn billions of rupees every year from this business. It was estimated that the owners earned from 50,000 tankers daily and earned Rs250 million.
However, Tankers Owners Association Chairman Iftikhar Abbasi refuted this claim and told this correspondent that they were providing a service and describing them as a mafia was unfair.
He said 8,000 tankers were providing water to the citizens on a daily basis and round the clock. He accused the water board officials for charging more than the fixed price from the tanker owners.
Abbasi said the water crisis was artificial and created every year for big profits by KWSB officials.
He blamed the illegal hydrants which were closed a few months ago now had been reopened for the shortage and accused KWSB officials of running them.
He said the KWSB MD had no right to fix tanker charges and suggested that the price should be fixed like those of other items like meat and milk.

LG minister
Provincial minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said action was being taken against water theft and the government was providing 3,000 tanker trucks daily to the affected areas to overcome the crisis. He added that the chief minister had provided Rs200million for the free water tanker service while Rs120 million had been provided to the KWSB for repairing pumping stations.
Memon held the KWSB employees appointed on political basis as the main cause behind the water utility’s poor performance.
He said the Sindh government had also approached the federal government to provide funds for the K-4 project.

K-4 project
The K-3 was completed in 2006 but the K-4 project has yet to start.
The project was planned for the supply of 260MGD and its estimated cost was more than Rs25 billion.
The Sindh government has demanded that the Centre should provide funds for the project.
Under the project, water will be supplied directly from the Indus River. However, the main reason for the delay is the denial of the Indus River System Authority which refuses to provide water from the river.
Balochistan has also opposed a reduction in its share from the river and it was agreed that province would use water from its own share.
The K-1, K-2 and K-3 were completed with the federal funding but the Centre has conveyed to Sindh that after the increase in the NFC award, it was the province’s responsibility to generate funds for the project.
However, after consultation between the two governments, the Centre agreed to finance the K-4 from the PSDP funds.

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