WATER SHORTAGE

Desalination plant is the solution

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Feb 10 - 23, 2003
 

Karachi said to be the commercial hub with a population of 14 million plus is getting only 450 Million Gallon of potable water per day against its actual requirement of 600MGD.

Although some support is given by Hub Dam and Dumlottee wells yet the amount of water supplied by these two sources is nominal and unsustainable, in fact the city has to heavily rely upon the Indus which is the main source of water supplies of this city bloated with unnatural growth of population. Apart from natural growth of population which is said to be 2-3 per cent while influx of population from upcountry adds another 3 per cent per annum to add to the civic problems of the city.

Water shortage has helped creating a strong mafia of tanker operators who are minting money by supplying unhygienic sub-soil water from the so-called water conduits built alongside the Lyari river which in fact a drain of sewerage water of the city. The water needs of industrial, commercial and even domestic population is met through these tankers. Using this water for drinking purposes is highly dangerous for health and causing water related diseases in the city.

The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) has initiated a feasibility study in collaboration with a US firm for establishing a desalination water plant to meet its water needs including the vessels calling on the port. The project will produce 25 million gallon water per day which would not only meet the KPT requirement but would greatly help in easing the water shortage in the city. With a foreign investment worth $60 million, the plant will provide 25 million gallons of potable water per day.

To go ahead with this project, the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) would provide a grant of $287,480 to partially fund the feasibility for the proposed 25 MGD desalination plant in water-deficient Karachi.

An agreement to this effect was signed last week by American Ambassador to Pakistan Ms Nancy Powel on behalf of the USTDA, Karachi Port Trust Chairman Vice Admiral Ahmad Hayat and Samiullah Khan, the President of M/s California Environ Management (CEM) of the USA were also present on the occasion.

The proposed project would be the biggest in Pakistan, as a very big job in a city that was deficient in water to the tune of 150 to 170 MGD, because of which productivity had suffered and people were facing health hazards due to lack of safe water.

The feasibility is expected to be completed within six months and then the company would commence work of the actual project. It is estimated that the plant construction and production of water would take 18-24 months to be operative.

KPT Chairman termed the project a "major initiative" that would also result in transfer of water related technology to Pakistan. KPT Chairman was of the view that CEM proposal was found attractive also due to the price at which they would distribute water to the people.

Most of Pakistan's urban water supply and sewerage works were installed for last upgraded more than 25 years ago, and they are operating above design capacity or have reached the end of the serviceable system life.

This situation had led the country to face a critical shortage of potable water in Karachi, a port city with a population of over 14 million plus and growing at the rate of five percent a year.

As a result of limited availability of domestic financing, the Government of Pakistan is promoting private sector participation in the water sector by inviting proposals on build-own-operate-transfer basis.

The KPT has allocated a 100 acre plot for the construction of a 25 MGD desalination plant. California Environ Management, a US small company project developer, has received a letter of intent from the KPT to proceed with a project and has reamed with Burns and McDonnell, a Missouri-based firm, to provide engineering services and to act as overall project manager.

The USTDA funded feasibility study will assess technical, economic and financial feasibility of the construction of the desalination plant to supply potable water to the KPT and the Water and Sanitation Department of the City District Government Karachi for industrial and domestic use.

When implemented, this public-private partnership would be the first desalination plant on this scale in Pakistan.

The plant would supply water for the entire needs of the Karachi Port and the surplus water would be available for use of the city. The project is first of its kind in Pakistan which will have a direct impact on the social sector as it will provide good quality water of WHO standard catering to the needs of more than one million people. It would also provide relief to industry where large quantities of water are required for processing. This step would help in arresting several health-related problems caused by water-borne microbes and harmful chemicals.

It was emphasized that the private sector needed to take a lead from this project and do their bit to contribute towards solving the ever-increasing water shortage in the city. Such projects would also reduce the pressure on Indus water, which would then be available for other customers of the province. This project will open avenues for industry related to water technology.