Water is source of all life. Sweet water sources are
being depleted at a fast rate. A time is fast approaching when all
easily accessible sweet water sources would exhaust. The
non-availability of clean drinking water is becoming a critical issue in
many parts of the world and has resulted in increased incidence of
hepatitis and other water-borne diseases. Karachi, a mega city of over
12 million people, is presently facing water shortage of around 100
million gallons per day (MGD) as against its totals water requirements
of around 600 MGD. Efforts are afoot to enhance water supply from
existing sources. In addition, possibilities are being explored to
increase supply of potable water through seawater desalination.
In the recent weeks, there have been press reports
about the desalination plants being planned by the Karachi Port Trust (KPT),
the Defense Housing Authority (DHA) and the Karachi Water and Sewerage
Board (KWSB). Status of these projects, as gathered from press reports,
is presented below:
a. The Federal
Minister for Communications has been quoted saying that KPT is
conducting its own feasibility studies of two desalination plants to be
constructed soon to benefit the city. While one desalination plant will
provide water to people of Manora and Bhit Island, the second plant will
be for the people of Karachi city. It may be mentioned that feasibility
study of KPT's 25 MGD capacity was earlier funded by a grant from the US
government. The desalination plant included a 15 MW power generation
plant, to supply electricity needed for the process.
b. A contract
has recently been signed at Karachi between DHA, Cogen Limited and
Siemens A.G. for establishing a combined cycle power plant for
electricity and seawater desalination to be installed at DHA Phase VIII.
Details of the project have been forwarded to the ministry for final
approval. The project would have an installed capacity of around 94 MW
and the electricity generated would be distributed through KESC network.
The desalination plant would provide 3 MGD potable water by converting
seawater into drinkable water, which will be distributed through Clifton
Cantonment Board at a reasonable price. The state-of-the-art
desalination plant has been completely manufactured in Germany.
c. KWSB has plans to build a seawater
desalination plants of unbelievably large capacity reportedly at 450 MGD
for which the feasibility report is about to be started. The federal
government has approved an amount of Rs 23 million for the purpose and
already released Rs 3 million as the first installment.
DHA, KPT and KWSB are planning to install seawater
desalination plants of 3 MGD, 25 MGD and 450 MGD capacity respectively.
Variation in the proposed capacity of the plants is very wide.
Desalination technologies are relatively new and cost-effective
technologies are presently being developed. With a view to facilitate
the preparation of the feasibility studies and the implementation of the
cost-effective projects in a timely manner, the following suggestions
are offered for consideration by the government and the respective
authorities undertaking the projects.
Many things about technology, process, capital cost,
environment aspects, etc. can be learnt from the desalination plants
already in operation in the country, as under: (i)
Hubco power plant at Hub Chowki, Balochistan reportedly has in operation
a desalination plant to meet water requirements for power generation as
well as for the housing colony. In addition, drinking water is said to
be provided to the villages in the vicinity of the power plant; (ii)
The Chinese Company that is building deepwater commercial port at Gwadar
has already installed a seawater desalination plant at the site to meet
potable water requirements during the construction phase. On completion
of phase one of the port project, the plant has been given to Pakistan
as a gift and would be used to supply potable water to the port and the
inhabitants of Gwadar; and (iii)
A desalination plant has been installed in Cholistan at Derawar Fort,
about 70 kilometers from Bahawalpur, for treatment of brackish water to
make it fit for human consumption. This plant was reportedly installed
by the Cholistan Development Authority (CDA) in September 2003, at a
cost of over Rs0.70 million in six months. It has the capacity to treat
3,000 gallons of water within eight hours at nominal operational cost.
This plant could serve as a pilot desalination plant for possible
duplication in cities which have brackish ground water.
The developed countries might be approached, through
the government of Pakistan, for seeking details and data about
cost-effective desalination technologies considered appropriate for our
conditions. It may be mentioned that the Federal Minister for Industries
and Production while on a visit to Austria sometime ago had sought
Austria's assistance for the setting up of a desalination plant near
Karachi. It has also been reported in the press that to tackle water
shortages caused by periodic dry spells in the region, China has offered
to Pakistan a special package that incorporates low-cost desalination
technology developed by its Tianjin Institute of Seawater Desalination.
The technology is cheap and reasonablly compared to other technologies,
due to which the production cost of one ton of potable water produced
from seawater has been reduced from 85 cents to 60 cents. Also, in a
ceremony at KPT last year, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan while signing
a $0.287 million grant agreement on behalf of the US Trade Development
Agency, reportedly said that the United States is on the forefront for
providing desalination technology to any part of the world. There might
be other countries offering similar or better technologies for our
KPT is said to be already working on the preparation
of seawater desalination plant for Karachi while KWSB might start work
now on receipt of the first installment from the government for the
feasibility. A good feasibility lays the foundation for selection of a
viable project, its financing and successful implementation within
budgeted cost and time. It is a major exercise that propounds careful
scrutiny of all major parameters of the project particularly the final
recommendations. The following points may be kept in view in the context
of preparation and scrutiny of the feasibility study:
feasibility report shall have better credibility if the consultants
working on the report are reputed for their technical competence and for
the quality of reports. In addition, the Terms of Reference (TOR)
including the outline of the feasibility report may be carefully
analysed to cover all requisite areas for investigation before the
consultants are awarded the assignment. The scope of the feasibility
report may be such as to provide satisfactory answers to most of the
technical or other points that have a strong bearing on the project
feasibility and it's financing. It may be noted that the desalination
plant of purely commercial type is yet to be installed in the country.
There is need to determine the economic size of such a plant based on a
different technologies and their cost-effectiveness.
cost including the financing and preproduction cost and the proposed
means of financing may be reviewed carefully. The feasibility report
must have details of tariff determination including detailed assumptions
for all inputs and outputs. The level of tariff would determine the
profitability of the proposed company and whether it would be profitable
for the water utilities to switch over to the desalinated water supply
arrangements from the existing sources. In many cases, tariff can make
or break the project.
feasibility report should also include details about other desalination
plants of similar capacity based on the same technology and already
operating in other parts of the world. Comparative data on capital cost
and the cost of one million gallons desalinated water so produced may
also be provided. The stakeholders may not opt for a technology based on
which there are no existing successful projects in operation.
d. Almost all areas of Karachi including areas under
DHA administration have ground water that is brackish and could also be
desalinated, perhaps cheaply than the seawater. It needs to be confirmed
if the selected technology would be suitable for desalination of
brackish water and whether the desalinated water so produced will cost
and quality-wise be comparable with the desalinated water produced from
Environmental aspects of the desalination project including the power
generation plant at the proposed locations may be fully assessed.
Karachi already has high level of pollution and other environmental
hazards. Addition of the proposed plants within Karachi areas may
possibly add to the environmental degradation and/or pollution levels
beyond acceptable limits.
KPT, DHA and KWSB must have teams of experts to
evaluate various aspects that would be analysed and examined in the
feasibility report to be submitted by the consultants employed for the
purpose. The same process should apply even if the study has been done
by the in-house experts. Members of the teams must be up-dating their
knowledge and collecting data on technology, similar desalination
plants, operating costs, financing possibilities, etc. in the meantime.
The assumptions on which the project feasibility would be developed
including financial incentives and concessions, capital costs, financing
plan, borrowing cost, level of pre-production expenses, etc. would need
to be examined within a short time of the submission of the feasibility
report. Time schedule for the preparation of the feasibility report,
government approval for project parameters or incentives and for the
implementation of the project might be properly provided.
KPT, DHA and KWSB would all benefit if there were
close working relationship in the preparation and scrutiny of the
feasibility studies as well as in the implementation of the desalination
plants finally agreed for execution. The Managing Director, KWSB until a
few weeks ago was heading DHA. His knowledge of DHA desalination plant
might be useful for realization of the desalination plant now being
considered by KWSB. Also, DHA and KPT would be assuming a new role of
the bulk seller of desalinated water to KWSB or other water utilities.
The tariff at which water is sold to the utility/bulk consumers will be
of crucial importance with big potential for disagreement. The idea is
to sort out difficult issues early on so that thereafter the
implementation and operation of the projects is smooth and profitable.
The final tariff to be borne by the people of Karachi should also be
reasonable and not exceeding the existing rates. In order to foreclose
the possibly of disagreements on the water tariff, it would not be
inappropriate to suggest to the government for appointing a regulatory
authority to determine bulk tariff for the desalinated water so produced
Like electricity, large quantity of water is lost in
distribution. The need for fresh capacity can be reduced to the extent
wastage of water is controlled with better water management. Karachi and
other big cities are not likely to overcome drinking water shortages
without commitment to a long-term Water Vision, of which some of the
main element could be as under:
by the people that drinking water (or for that matter even irrigation
water) is fast becoming scarce and conservation measures have to
seriously start NOW. Water management measures are to be initiated in
houses, mosques, factories, commercial enterprises, etc. for that matter
in every place where clean water is consumed. Wasteful use of potable
water through carelessness or pipe leakages or mal-functioning taps, etc
has to be controlled. Awareness through print or television media among
people need to be developed to save large quantity of potable water.
These days every where drinking quality water is used to flush the
toilets. The switching over to the use of brackish water for the purpose
can save large quantity of drinking water.
b. Building of
water infrastructure requires lot of financial resources, which mostly
are arranged by borrowings or in exceptional cases through grants from
friendly countries or institutions. At present a small portion is met
through user charges. The user charges need to be rationalized along
with the installation of water meters. Households should in due course
pay full water charges according to the water consumed. This is a
pre-requisite to sustain water utilities on long-term basis and would
help the consumers realize the importance of water conservation.
c. There might
be a number of industries or businesses that use drinking water in bulk
for applications where brackish water could be functionally good enough.
Industrial and house-hold water requirements need to be estimated
separately. In certain cases, industrial process water might be reused
after it is treated. The City might have to erect water treatment plants
so that the treated water is provided to the industries for re-use or is
used to water the parks or for irrigation purposes. Instead of
discharging untreated sewage or industry effluent water into the sea, it
would be better if only the treated water is returned to the water
bodies and channels.
d. KWSB and
other similar utilities must realize that under the WTO regime from
January 2005, clean water that is reasonably priced coupled with proper
sanitation would be particularly required for enhancing competitiveness
of local industry/businesses in the export market. Therefore, these
utilities are urged to improve their cost-competitiveness and modernize
their staffing, systems and procedures particularly in the design,
execution and operation of various projects. The directives issued by
the Managing Director to the senior management on 14th January 2004
regarding control of wastage, surveys of all properties drawing water,
streamlining the tax collection, regularization of illegal connections,
etc. are pertinent and should help improve KWSB operations. The Mapping
of Karachi's underground water and its quality being considered by KWSB
would help in improving water situation. The personnel might be
motivated to perform better in the service of the Karachiites.
Good health, strong labour force, quality education,
etc are to a great extent linked to easy availability of clean drinking
water at reasonable prices. Therefore, the shortage of drinking water
might be tackled at national level. Different water authorities might
consider adopting a proactive approach in these matters and approach the
provincial and federal government for taking appropriate measures for
ensuring adequate quantity of clean water for drinking in the coming
years. Details about suitability of technologies being procured for
water treatment plants or seawater/brackish water desalination plants as
well as their operating costs could be shared among water authorities of
different cities and regions. Through collective research and
development it is possible to adapt the technologies to our conditions
and also to fabricate major parts of these desalination plants/treatment
plants locally. The country stands a better chance of tackling the
drinking water issues through a coordinated, fair and transparent
approach among all the stakeholders.