Karachi water woes

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The much-needed action against those involved in operating illegal hydrants, theft of water and its sale is now underway in Karachi. Several unauthorised water hydrants have been sealed in district Malir, and the Sindh local government minister, who is also chairman of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, has said the scope of the operation will be widened to cover the whole city. High government officials are personally supervising the campaign.

The city of 20 million is receiving only 550 million gallons of water daily against its needs for around 1,200mgd — the gap between demand and supply is more than half. This shortfall is met by tankers, and in many cases, by those who sell water in cans. Water in tankers and cans are sold at exorbitant prices. Residents of many localities in the city meet their need for potable water by purchasing water. For years, home taps in these areas have remained dry, but people regularly receive their water bill. Observers say most private water sellers steal water from KWSB pipelines and its system. Besides, pipelines have become worn out which causes leakage; and as a result considerable amount of the precious commodity is lost. At several places, water gets mixed up with sewage causing dangerous diseases.

There are legal hydrants too. Water requirement of some areas, like the DHA where piped water is not available, is met by water tankers. However, water supply through tankers results in damaging roads and water pipelines too. Water tankers are also reported to be involved in accidents. According to media reports, water tankers and motorcycles are involved in both fatal and non-fatal accidents. Some tanker drivers are reportedly untrained or they are in the habit of driving recklessly. There are several other issues with Karachi’s water supply, like chlorination of water has not been done for several years. All these issues need to be addressed on a war footing.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2021.

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