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Water crisis in Karachi

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It is high time to look for a long-term solution

By Faraz Siddiqui
Jun 12 - 18, 2000

Pakistan is facing its worst ever water crises bordering on drought. Shortage of of rains during last many years, the substantial lowering of water levels at the two main dams, Tarbela and Mangla, has created an acute water shortage the ripples of which can we witnessed throughout the country. The drying up of wells and small water reservoirs have played a havoc on the people in the rural areas of Sindh and Balochistan and the situation in the major urban centers is also bad. The agriculture sector, the major contributor to the GDP, is feared to lose millions in loss productivity due to the water shortage.

The persistent shortfall of water is witnessed at large, specially in big cities and densely populated areas. After disappointing from concerned authorities the only way is to look upon the sky for having rainfall to quench the thirst of people. Although the same situation is faced by country every year but no panacea could be found so far in this regard. Karachi, the biggest city, being with highest growth rate, approximately population of 15 million, also facing severe water crisis.

The system to provide water to Karachitiis was actually devised in 1948 with prioritized phases of time and for fourth phase it was planned to provide 280 million gallons water to Karachi through Kinger Gujjo canal .Silting and wastage has decreased the capacity of KG canal and other water reservoirs to supply the desired amount of water to the city. Despite of providing 280 million gallons per day to the city, increased population has changed the demand figures of water to the city. Demand of water keeps on increasing but supply remained limited which resulted in the present shortfall.

The system designed has evident obsolescence because of low capacity and vertical expansion of population in the city. The real water crisis has started its emergence in 1980s which has been multiplying during last two decades and worsen the situation. At present Karachi is facing shortfall of about 180 to 200 million gallons per day. Although the supply from Hub Dam supported the situation but since last two years the supply from Hub is totally suspended because of no rainfall. The main source of water in Karachi is Indus River which comprises 425 million gallons from Dhabeji and K2 project, 30 million gallons from Gharo and 100 million gallons from Hub Dam.

The bitter fact is that even after having the supply of 100 million gallons from Hub, the shortfall of 100 million gallons will remain still there. One of the official from KWSB said, total supply to the city at present is approximately about 455 million gallons which is normally at 555 million gallons daily with 100 million additional from Hub. But the total demand is about 650 MGD and more than that.

Taking undue advantage of this situation, tanker mafia has grown up with the connivance of officials and water management. The contaminated water was supplied to the citizens through illegal hydrants and these tankers are charging heavy sum to supply this health hazardous water to the people. Industrial sector is the main target of these Tanker Mafia which can not avoid to buy water from them. Recently KMC asked KWSB to paint its tankers in green in colour to make it distinctive from those private tankers which are supplying water for non drinking purpose and this decision is to be implemented by July 1 . This is an appreciable move by KMC health department for the health safety of common man.

Unproportionate increase in population has aggravated the socio-economic situation of the country at large because of constantly scarce resources. Water shortfall is also aggravated with the vertical expansion of population which made the supply of water difficult equally to all the areas of large city with prevailing system of water supply. Shortfall of rainfall in the country also worsen the situation with less availability through current supply.

Besides main areas there are about 370 Kacchi Abadis in the country out of which 50% is having the system to supply water. Only 70% out of that is having the basic system of water supply under Sindh Government. Most of the areas in Karachi is supplied water on Quota basis and very few areas are having a daily supply of water, most of the areas in West District are supplied water after 105 hours and majority of the areas having water supply after 70 hours or two and half days. KWSB aim is to cut down this level to 8 hours by introducing valve operation. But the main problem is that the major areas of the city lacking the existence of basic system of water supply for instance Surjani Town, Shireen Jinnah Colony, Muhammadi Colony etc. An official from KWSB said that most of the areas developed by KDA does not have proper system network for water supply.

Huge number of losses like pumping, fractional and leakages during transportation of water were also resulted in the shortage of water. If the proper measure is taken to avoid these losses then only the supply of much amount of water will be available to the common man. Silting up of canals also causes to lower down the capacity of water flow, this should also be cured to size the full capacity. Theft of water is another great hindrance for the sufficient supply of water.

The current channel of drought and water shortage is expected to have an end by timely rainfall of Monsoon which will certainly raise the level of water in rivers and specially Hub, which will help the authorities to overcome the situation.

KWSB is supplying water not only to Karachi but also to Thatta, Pipri and many areas of Sindh and suburbs of Karachi despite of having the poor sewerage and supply structure. KWSB has also a plan to abreast with the water deficit area due to the suspension of water supply from Hub by constructing pumping stations in affected areas. A plan for desalination is also undertaken by KWSB to increase the availability of potable water.


Now it is high time to look for a long-term solution to provide sufficient supply of water specially during shortfall. Vertical expansion of population has been increasing rapidly which demands bulk supply of water, calculated measure can only solve this problem. Proper formation and implementation of legislation should make against the illegal hydrants and tanker mafia.

Present system of water supply may be modified in order to increase the availability. The shrinking capacity of reservoirs and canals may be lessen as much as possible. Desalination of sea water can also be a solution to the problem. Areas that lack the basic system of water supply must be improve. Wastage and water theft should be properly monitored by concerned authorities. The expected valve operation system should be properly installed to effectively hit the target by supplying more amount of water. KWSB can play a very vital role to get over the problems concerning water shortage. Population sprawl in our region is an undeniable fact and all measures must be taken by keeping this in view .