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Water starving Quetta

With a population of nearly three million people, the demand for water of Quetta city is increasing due to surge in population. Quetta has been getting 28 million gallons of water per day while the city has been facing a shortfall of 17 million gallons of water per day, according to the official figures. By 2026, the demand for water in Quetta will increase to 75 million gallons of water per day due to the surge in population. Presently, water is being supplied to the city by extracting fossil water by tube-wells. The underground water level in Quetta has dropped down to 2000 feet deep. It is estimated that water table in Quetta valley is declining at an average rate of 4-5 feet per year.

The only source of water for the residents of Quetta is the groundwater reservoirs. Precipitation is the only source of recharge to the aquifer. The problem of water scarcity in the provincial capital is becoming acute which enhances the need for a better water storage system. One can see a long list of promises and commitments made by the governments in the past in regard to resolving the vexing problem of water supply and management the residents of Quetta city are facing since long. Truly speaking, the obsolete and worn out water supply system in the provincial capital does not need improvement but a total replacement by a new and durable system. Similarly, the sewerage and sanitation system in Quetta poses health risks and acts as a catalyst in increasing environmental pollution.

Last year, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) took notice of inordinate delay and unsatisfactory work in Quetta Water Supply and Environmental Improvement Project (QWSEIP) carried out by the construction company NCL. The company was unable to complete the project despite having received the major amount. The revised cost of the water project QWSEIP was Rs 10 billion whereas Balochistan government released about Rs 9 billion to the NCL for its completion, however, NCL left the work incomplete despite release of project’s major amount.NLC laid down pipelines (1505 km) for distribution of water but there was no drawing and other relevant record available with the QWSEIP. In 2016, the former government announced to obtain the services of well-reputed international organizations and expert engineering organizations to prepare comprehensive feasibility report on Quetta Greater Water Plan to meet the requirements of the Quetta city. Former government planned to supply water to Quetta from Pat Feeder Canal through a long water pipeline.

It was actually in December 2004 when the Balochistan government led by the then Chief Minister Jam Mohammed Yousaf formally inaugurated Quetta Water Supply Project with a cost of Rs 8 billion to be completed in five year period. The federal government led by former president Pervaiz Musharraf provided fund for the project. The completion of the project would ensure supply of 36,000 million gallons of water to the provincial capital every day.

The efforts for development of water resources were initiated in early 2000 and the field work was completed by late 2003. Electromagnetic and deep resistivity survey for assessment of hard rock aquifers in Quetta Valley and surrounding areas was carried out by Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP). GSP’s success in finding large quantities of good quality, ground water in hard rock aquifers in and around Quetta valley averted the impending water crisis in Quetta.

Integrated geophysical survey comprising of electro-magnetic profiling and deep electrical resistivity soundings in the Quetta valley and surroundings have been conducted for the assessment of hard rock aquifers specially the Jurrasic-Tertiary limestones. The survey forms a major part of hydrogeological investigations carried out from the pilot to investigation phase of Balochistan Water and Sanitation Authority (B-WASA) program of Quetta. The investigations indicated the Chiltan limestone as a primary hard rock groundwater resource for the Quetta valley and surroundings. Dungan and Kirthar limestone also have a potential for good yielding aquifers. The tested discharge from the bore holes drilled have quantified more than 20 mgd of hard rock groundwater resource which could be tapped for augmenting the water supply and ameliorating the pressing demand for more water in different sectors.


A water-starved province

Balochistan is a water starved province. The development of water resources should be the key to maximize crop production in Balochistan. This can be done through increasing surface water supplies and conserving water using the latest technologies and protecting land and infrastructure from water logging, salinity, floods and soil erosion. There is a dire need to overcome the scarcity of water through construction of medium and large dams and efficient utilization of irrigation water and restoring the productivity of agricultural land through control of water logging, salinity and floods. An integrated program approach for water management needs to be adopted.

For the last two decades, Balochistan is trying hard to improve the management of scarce water resources. The key areas in this regard include increasing surface water availability and reducing groundwater depletion, increasing water productivity through a combination of engineering, management and agricultural measures and expanding local capacity and participation of farmers to implement similar schemes and formulate plans for sustainable water resources development and watershed management.

The government of former president Pervaiz Musharraf had launched on-farm water management (OFWM) projects and the program for the improvement and lining of watercourses all over the country. The program envisaged lining improvement of 87,000 watercourses at a cost of Rs 66 billion within 3-4 years. The initiative was aimed at improving water supply at the farm-gate through reduction in the seepage losses. During the year 2006-07, 18,390 watercourses had been lined and renovated against the target of 18,000 watercourses.

Balochistan needs small-scale irrigation schemes, which can support the provincial government’s efforts for improving the management of scarce water resources in the rural Balochistan by reducing the overall impact of the water shortage. Such schemes can contribute to strengthening provincial water management capabilities. The similar projects were launched by World Bank in the past in north Balochistan. The project had three components that included partial restoration of the water storage capacity, developing small-scale irrigation schemes in the Pishin Lora Basin and strengthening and building the capacity of the Irrigation and Power Department, water management institutions, farmers and community organizations, and implementing studies.

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