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Karachi

November 19, 2015

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To end water woes, using grey matter and greywater may help

Karachi
Leaving both its visitors and residents amazed at its rapid rate of infrastructural development, its socio-political dynamics and the rising socio-economic divide, a metropolis can aptly be defined as any country or region’s heart, tasked with generating its majority share of revenue. However, not everything in the garden is as rosy as it appears to be!
With a population running into millions, provision of basic civic amenities, specifically equal distribution of water to all and sundry has more often than not proved to be an uphill task for the governing authorities of mega cities.
In reference to Karachi’s perpetual water crisis, Dr Ikramullah Khattak of the University of Peshawar said the city was facing a shortfall of 370 million gallons per day (mgd). “Against a demand of 1,000mgd, the authorities manage to provide only 630mgd,” he added.
Dr Khattak was presenting his research on the available water resources in Karachi and their future prospects at a session titled “Water for cities: Making the metropolis more manageable” on the last day of a two-day water conference on Wednesday.
“The only major water utility catering to a population of over two million, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board has only managed to bring 37 percent of the city’s residents under the water distribution network so far,” Dr Khattak noted.
“With most of its water resources located outside Karachi, the only hope for the city lies in the K-IV water project as it is the most economical and viable of all the water developmental projects and has the capacity to provide 1,200 cusecs of water per day.”
He suggested adopting a demand-responsive approach in case of Karachi which meant conserving the water generating from the city on a daily basis and gradually building a way for it to be included in the water distribution system. Besides, he added, reusing treated effluents could also mitigate the city’s water woes to a certain

extent.
Rabia Tabassum of the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences in her presentation, “Estimation of water demand for commercial units in Karachi”, said of the city’s total water usage, five percent was used for commercial purposes - office buildings, hotels, restaurants and other non-industrial commercial facilities.
As per a research carried out with specific focus on restaurants, a single employee was reported to consume 10 litres of water per day, making the per unit demand stand at 0.144 litres per square foot.
The mean total consumption of water for commercial purposes was calculated to be 47 litres a day that included usage for drinking, cleaning, washroom, etc.
Tabassum’s research further showed that restaurants had the largest consumption of water in the commercial sector.
Dr Rasool Baksh Mahar, a professor at the US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Water at the Mehran University, presented the most appreciated research of the session that focused on meeting a mega city’s water demands through using recycled greywater generated by mosques through ablution. The research’s focus was Hyderabad.
Taking into account around 32 mosques of Hyderabad, the study suggested that 7.4 litres of water were used by a single person while performing ablution. The selections were based on the size, location and attendance at a mosque.
The statistics gathered over a year’s period showed that water authorities could save around 2,200 cubic metres of water daily if they were to form a strategy to conserve greywater.
“The water, easily treatable through sedimentation and disinfectants, can be used for flushing waste effluents in washrooms, gardening as well as cleaning.”
In his presentation, “Water pricing to promote equity, efficiency and sustainability in Faisalabad”, Usman Mirza, an associate coordinator of LEAD Pakistan’s water programme, stressed the need for effective water pricing strategies to evaluate the quantity of water used up by a single household.
His estimates drawn from calculating the amount of water used for drinking purposes in urban localities by 1,200 households suggest that lower income households are willing to pay more money - up to Rs3 - for a single unit of water.
Further elaborating on water pricing structures, he cited the Water and Sanitation Agency’s example which had the lowest rate of recovery, between 30 and 35 percent, of the amount it spent on providing water.
To top that, it charged 4.25 times lower than the ongoing market price. “Contrary to the widely held belief, lower tariffs on water affect the poor more than an efficient pricing structure.”

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