City: Rising population, climate change behind Karachi water crisis


KARACHI:Massive water crisis has gripped Karachi’s areas of Gulistan-e-Johar, Baldia, Lyari, Orangi, Keamari, Gul Bai, Shershah, Korangi Industrial Area, Sheerin Jinnah Colony, Site Industrial Area, Korangi residential areas, Defence, Clifton, Qayumabad, Quaidabad, Landhi and Burns Road, where on average, per family in different segments of the society has been compelled to spend approximately Rs4000 extra on drinking water monthly amid skyrocketing price hike while the residents of highly developed areas -Defence and Clifton – have pay to Rs70 billion per month on tanker water supply, according to an investigative report made by this journalist under a fellowship organized by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).

The investigative report said that the reason behind crippling water crisis in the city is climate change and rising population, which need to be tackled through effective planning and management. Due to climate change, water level in Indus, which is major source of Karachi water, has declined. The water crisis has affected 14.91 million people in the city, including owners of industries, cattle pens, hotels, schools, colleges, and other business places, in the lieu of rising tanker, can and bottled water expenses, according to the investigative report made by journalist M Nawaz Khuhro under a fellowship organized by PPF.

In an interview during field visit, Mohammad Naeem Qureshi, President of National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH), said that the climate change had emerged as the biggest environmental challenge in Karachi, reducing water resource of Hub Dam since two decades. “During the last century, the average temperature over Pakistan has increased by 0.6°C, which is in conformity with the increase of average global temperature, but in Karachi, the average temperature in 25 years has risen by 6 t0 8 °C, which is an alarming hike,” he said.

Qureshi, who is a renowned environmentalist of Pakistan based in Karachi, said: “The mean annual temperature has increased over Pakistan in the recent past with greater increase in Sindh and Balochistan. Due to climate change, the average rains over Balochistan has also declined to a much extent in last 20 years, causing low water supply to Hub Dam during this time.

However, recent rains have raised water supply in the Hub Dam, but in future, there will be more low rains, as a result, Hub will face acute water shortage.” He said there was need to ensure effective water management and conservation in Karachi which loses 35% water due to leakages from damaged and outdated pipelines; therefore, those pipelines should be immediately replaced with new ones.

NFEH president said that the total daily water demand of Karachi is 1188 Million Gallons Daily (MGD) while it gets only 638 MGD. Thus, the city is short of 550 MDG. “If solid and effective conservation steps are not taken, the water demand for Karachi will rise to 1700 MGD by next 30 years. It is time to save 35% water leakages in Karachi besides raising its share from Indus River through Keenjhar Lake so that citizens could take a sigh of relief from crippling water crisis, he said.

To tackle water crisis, Sindh government authorities has approved $1.6 billion Karachi Water and Sewerage Improvement Programme (KWSSIP) with the sport of the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to provide citizens safe and reliable water service on sustainable and predictable basis. The World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will provide each 40 percent funds share while the provincial regime will pay 20 percent. Pakistan is a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the SDG 6 aims to provide safe drinking water to 95 percent of the population by the year 2030. In view of this, Qureshi said that there was no proper planning with the government for raising Karachi water resources.

According to the investigative report, Karachi is the most populous city of Pakistan with population of over 14.91 millions. The population in the city has shown an increase of 59.8% in 19 years, but the water share of the city is almost same. The population influx from the cities, towns and villages of all four provinces has put heavy burden on Karachi water sources and that is why that the Sindh government has asked the federal government to raise water share from Indus River for Karachi as it houses people from whole Pakistan. Ironically, no response in this regard has yet been given by the federal government.

Anyways, there is dire need to raise Karachi’s water share to a significant level so that people could take a sigh of relief from contaminated water and extra expenses in lieu of tanker, can and bottled water.

In an interview during field visit, Nazeer Ahmed, a resident of Sunny Pride, Block-20, Gulistan-e-Johar, said: “The people in apartments in this area had been compelled to purchase tanker, can and bottled water for drinking which is costly. He said: “In flats, the citizens are purchasing a 13-liter drinking water can for Rs25-30 and a 19-liter bottle for Rs70-80. Furthermore, additional Rs1000 to 15000 per month is paid in the head of tanker water which is contaminated and is only used for washing purposes.” Nazeer said that families with five to 10 members thus spend Rs4000 and Rs5000 per month, respectively, on water for which the government is responsible to provide it. In Bhittaiabad, Pahlwan Goth and other slum areas of Gulistan-e-Johar, water charges are more as the families of above sizes have to pay Rs5000 to Rs6000 per month in lieu of salty tanker and can water, Nazeer concluded.

A KWSB report said that upcoming water projects of Karachi are K-III Textile City and CETP, Greater Karachi Water Supply Project K-IV, Rehabilitation of Dhabeji Pump House Phase-I, and Rehabilitation of Clifton Pumping Station (CPS). The investigation further said 260 MGD water was approved for Phase-I of K-IV Project which could still not be completed despite lapse of several years. Remaining phases of K-IV Project comprising 260 and 130 MGD are also without any approved water quota. When the K-IV project was announced, its cost was Rs15255 million and its first phase was due to be completed in 2018, but now the project deadline has been extended by 2021. This will certainly increase the project cost by big margin as dollar value has hit record high.

A Water Commission Report says a total of 19 RO plants in Karachi have been installed through KWSB. Of them, six were installed in Lyari and 13 in Keamari town. Of them, two are non-functional. These RO plants are non-functional due to negligence of authorities.

In an interview, Shabina Faraz, a leader of Green Media Initiatives organization which works on environment and water issues, said that a big quantity of water was being lost during supply in Karachi due to outdated pipelines which were 60 years old. “Another big issue is water theft as tanker mafia, backed by influential elements, is stealing citizens’ water from pipelines and selling the same to them, which is a great injustice. Hence, there is need to replace old pipelines to conserve water in better manner besides stopping water theft,” she said.

She said that salty water is being made potable in many coastal cities of the world, so the government should also do it with the help of private sector. “The rainwater harvesting system should be established at administrative level in the city and people should be made aware of it as recently, heavy rains occurred in Karachi and such a heavy rain water could have been conserved if we had such system,” Shabina urged. Access to safe drinking water is the constitutional right of every citizen of Pakistan, but every government has failed to provide it to the citizens, Shabina concluded.