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May 21, 2019

Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink

Karachi

May 21, 2019

There’s no water shortage in the country, yet 32 percent of our population are deprived of piped water because there are no connections, no pipelines to supply water to their taps in their homes.

This was stated by Omer Ahsan of Survive International Welfare organisation while addressing mediafolk at the Karachi Press Club Monday afternoon. An emotionally charged Ahsan, whose leftist, liberal, progressive, and socialist views were clear as crystal, blamed the successive governments and the super-rich elite, the capitalists, who, he said, did not care a two-pence for the welfare of the common man.

He said that he recently visited Avaran in Balochistan and said he was really pained to see women having to walk seven kilometres to the nearest stream to fetch water. He said two trips to fetch water meant that they had to walk 28 kilometres daily to fetch water and walk back with earthenware pots on their heads full of the commodity, just to save their children from death. He said that there was no gas, no electricity, no water in the area. He said that the rare species, the Markhors, were dying in Balochistan because of shortage of water.

“Water is life and it is tragic to see people queuing up for this essential commodity in our far-flung areas and even in metropolises like Karachi,” he said.

Ahsan said that be it Gilgit-Baltistan, Sindh, or Balochistan, a real eyesore was the dire shortage of water, something that was essential to sustain all life forms. He said that today (May 21) he would start his walk from the Karachi Press Club just a little before Iftar and walk for 40 kilometres on an empty stomach and have Iftar on the way. He invited the mediafolk to accompany him on this symbolic walk just to bring home the agony of having to do without water during the fasting season.

Justice (retd) Wajeehuddin, former chief justice of the Sindh High Court, who also addressed the press conference, said, “Water is there in our country but we just waste it.” Ninety percent of the waterworks plants were not working, and they were short on maintenance, he said.

Justice Wajeehuddin said that this disparity was on account of the inherent class discrimination in our society whereby the have-nots were not considered fully human. Among others who addressed the press conference were a young man, Niaz, from Tharparkar, a social activist. He spoke of the dire water shortage in Thar and said that so many child deaths had occurred on account of polluted water and malnutrition.

He said that the underground water level was hundreds of feet underground and the government had set up RO (reverse osmosis) plants for pumping up underground water, but almost all of them were lying out of order with the result that people had to dig hundreds of feet and then, with the help of camels, draw the precious little up.

Besides, he said, these plants which were not working had been set up just in one area of Thar and most of the area had been ignored. He said that during a past regime, the contract for the maintenance of these plants had been bagged by the son of a serving prime minister who had just not bothered about their maintenance. Omer Ahsan is the nephew of the 1965 Indo-Pak war hero, Squadron Leader (later air-commodore) MM Alam.

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