KARACHI   - The water crisis in Karachi seems to be getting worse day by day with no immediate solution in sight. The worst-hit areas are Defence, Lyari, Gulistan-e- Johar, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Landhi, Malir, Korangi, Orangi, North Nazimabad, North Karachi, New Karachi and many other similar localities. In most of the areas, the water supply timing by KWSB and load-shedding hours are the same so people cannot store water.

There’s nothing here,” says Farzana Khatoun, surveying the dry expanse of land before her. “We don’t even have enough water to wash up for prayer, do our laundry or wash our dishes.” Khatoun cannot simply turn on a tap and expect water to gush out; her home is not connected to the water pipelines of Karachi, the sixth most water-stressed city in the world.

The city has two sources of water supply, Hub Dam and Keenjhar Lake. The Hub Dam is empty due to the lack of rainfall in Karachi in the last three years. Hub Dam primarily supplied water to district West. Now, the city depends on the water of Keenjhar Lake which is distributed through Dhabeji pumping station.

The Dhabeji pumping station supplies 450MGD of water, but by the time it reaches the city it is reduced to 400MGD since it is either stolen or lost in leakages. Various areas that were earlier supplied water every 15 to 20 days, now do not get it for months.

Karachi – home to more than 20 million people – is currently meeting just 50% of its total water requirement, according to officials from the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB). The city needs 1.1bn gallons of water daily but can only supply 550m gallons per day (MGD). Meanwhile, Karachi’s population growth rate of 4.5% per annum means that nearly a million newcomers – economic migrants, refugees and internally displaced people – enter the city every year, further stressing the already-limited water supply.

 “Since this government came into power in 2013, we haven’t had water,” says Mofiz Khan, a shopkeeper in Orangi Town, an economically depressed area in westernmost Karachi. Khan has tried different methods to provoke a response: he’s written letters, demonstrated on the streets and waited in long queues for water tankers, at times getting into a fracas with other water-starved residents.

The water crisis is the result of several factors. Scarce water resources persistently fail to meet the massive demand from a burgeoning population. The Hub Dam went dry earlier this year, leaving Karachi with just one water source, the Indus river, which is more than 120km away.

This long transmission route also causes problems – leakages and water thefts account for the loss of almost 30% of the city’s water supply, according to Jawed Shamim, former chief engineer at KWSB. This is exacerbated by the poor performance of outdated and inefficient pumping stations.

The water crisis in Karachi has been worsening for years now, and it has become the matter of life and death because without water Karachiites unable to survive. The Sindh government in this regard has apparently put the city’s water needs on the backburner, setting aside just Rs150 million for a 65 MGD excess water project in the provincial budget for the coming year.

The project, which was approved in 2014 and construction for which began in 2017, was planned so that it would reach completion within two years. However, it has remained in limbo for the past year, mainly due to lack of funds and the government’s apparent lack of interest.

Considered crucial for overcoming the prevalent water scarcity in Karachi, it is now likely to face further delays with the government failing to allocate sufficient funds for its completion.

Similarly, just Rs50 million has been earmarked for the much-vaunted K-IV bulk water project, which was initially to see its completion in 2018. Karachi needs 1,200 million gallons of water daily to sustain the needs of its population. However, the city is only supplied with 406 MGD of water. Under the distribution system of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, 364 MGD and 42 MGD of water is provided for domestic use and the industries, respectively.

Improving water and

sanitation

In a bid to improve the water supply and sanitation system, the government has earmarked Rs50 million for the construction and repair of filter plants at Gharo, Pipri and COD, as well as North East filter plant, running under the KWSB. Once rehabilitated, the plants will improve water filtration for Karachi by 210 MGD.

Apart from this, Rs15 million has been set aside for the construction of new filter plants in Karachi, while Rs62.5 million has been allocated for the upgrading of the K-III, K-II and NE pumping stations, Rs62 million for the upgrade of Hub pumping house and pumping station, Rs37 million for the upgrade of Gharo pumping station and Rs25 million for the upgrade of Damloti pumping station.

Separately, Rs37.5 million has been kept for laying down water pipelines in Defence Housing Authority, Qayyumabad and other areas.

Besides, the Sindh government has earmarked Rs18.7 million each for all six districts of Karachi, to spend on the repair and replacement of water and sewerage pipelines.

As much as Rs100 million has been set aside for the procurement of machinery and sewerage cleaning in Karachi. In addition to this, sums have also been allocated for the construction and repair of various roads and drains across the city.

The provincial government has also announced Rs330.11 million for the Competitive and Livable City of Karachi Project, which it has launched in collaboration with the World Bank (WB). The project, aimed at carrying a property survey of the metropolis and enhance its living conditions, is to cost Rs33.6 billion, of which Rs32.2 billion will be paid by the WB and Rs1.4 billion by the Sindh government.

It has further reserved Rs25 million for controlling environmental pollution at Clifton Beach and to protect and preserve marine life.

Besides, the government has set aside another Rs330 million for establishing six garbage transfer stations in Karachi. Moreover, Rs240 million has been allocated for the establishment of two landfill sites, Rs23 million for a feasibility study pertaining to hospital waste management and Rs26 million for a study pertaining to industrial solid waste management.

Furthermore, the government has earmarked Rs70 million for the first phase of Karachi Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project, which has been initiated to make the water board a viable utility.

Jointly launched with the WB and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the project is to cost around Rs14.7 billion, of which Rs5.8 billion is to be paid by the WB and as much by the AIIB, while remaining Rs2.9 billion is to be furnished by the Sindh government.

The government has separately earmarked Rs22 million for carrying out a study of the project, so that a project implementation unit can be set up.