Karachi is the largest city of Pakistan, and like all metropolitan cities, it is expected to have all the necessities of life such as schools, a great transportation system and clean water. But unfortunately, that is not the case with Karachi. The city is not only facing the issue of being deprived of clean water but rather there is almost no water at all. Pakistan is facing its worst-ever water shortage crisis. An intense drought has been witnessed in recent years.

The low amount of rainfall in the past few years has led to the substantial water lowering in the two dams, Tarbela and Mangla. This in turn has given rise to an acute water shortage. Wells have been drying throughout the country, the ripple effect is quite apparent.

Karachi which is home to about 20 million people is currently meeting only half of its water requirement. The system that supposed to provide water to the inhabitants of Karachi was established in 1948 with prioritized phases of time and it was planned that for the fourth phase 280 million gallons of water were to be provided to Karachi via the Kinger Gujjo canal.

Silting and wastage resulted in a decrease of the capacity of the Kinger Gujjo canal and most of the other water reservoirs to supply the needed amount of water to Karachi. Even with the provision of 280 million gallons of water per day to the city, the rapid increase in the population of the city has altered the demand figures of water for the city. The demand kept on increasing and so the limited supply could not catch up to it, leading to the shortage of water.

The long transmission route of the water is also a key factor in the water problem the city is facing. Leakage and water thefts contribute to the 30% loss of water from the water supply according to a former chief engineer at KWSB, Jawed Shamim. The whole situation is made worse by the weak performance of inefficient and outdated water pumping stations.

A number of people have exploited the whole water problem and turned it into a business. They are more commonly referred to as the tanker mafia; this group of people is fleecing consumers by charging them 3000 to 8000 rupees per tanker. The price of these water tankers varies from location to location.

There have been reports that the Sindh government had conducted grave operations against these illegal water hydrants but it is quite apparent that the Singh government has immensely failed to put a stop to water theft. It is now common knowledge that water is being siphoned via illegal connections to illegal hydrants. It seems that the tanker mafia is supported by many powerful politicians and the corrupt KWSB bureaucracy.

According to an official government document, there is an increased nitrate, arsenic and fluoride contamination in the drinking water of various localities of Pakistan. The water pressure in the Pakistan supply system is low in general and add leaking pipes to the situation, the contamination situation in drinking water is imminent.

A survey was carried out of the drinking water samples in Karachi in 2006/08 and it was witnessed that the samples which were collected had 86% more lead contamination in the water than that which was allowed by the WHO for 10 parts per billion. Waterborne diseases killed about 10 people in Karachi in three months.

Issues like water theft, pipeline leakage, a massive influx of migrants and the low levels of rainfall have led to these water woes. Still, it is the duty of the federal and provincial government to establish and initiate projects to meet the drastically increasing water demand and to provide clean water to the citizens of not only Karachi but the whole country.

Article By: Salman Sabir
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