Islamabad - Though the dry spells have put a strain on the surface and groundwater resources, it is the handiwork of some low-ranking Capital Development Authority (CDA) staffers and their local agents who have created this synthetic water scarcity in Islamabad by giving illegal connections, both residential and commercial, to mainly rural areas, a brazen robbery of the share of the residents of sectorial areas who have legal connections and pay regular water bills.

While these illegally hooked beneficiaries enjoy this stolen commodity without paying a single penny to the CDA, those who have legal connections and pay water bills get it after an alternate day and that too for a few hours.

Interestingly, through the shady work, thousands of residential and commercial areas from Bara Kahu to Naiabad and up to Bari Imam have been hooked to the main pipeline — laid down by the CDA with the help of the Japan government — from Simly Dam to the central parts of the capital city.

Fascinatingly, the Japan government had strictly obligated the CDA through a memorandum to take extreme care of the 48-inch diameter special pipeline against damages through dents and illegal connections, however, the special line has had many holes done by the “CDA water agents”.

The CDA “water agents” come out on the night and give illegal connections to the residents of rural areas from Bara Kahu up to Bari Imam. The thriving black market is run by the Capital Development Authority agents with impunity, pushing the city to the verge of a water-scarcity town.

The Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) on Monday submitted a report to the Supreme Court, claiming depleting surface and groundwater resources, poor management, leakage from the existing water supply lines and wastage as the main reasons for the water scarcity in Islamabad.

The MCI report has flatly, and cunningly, swept the actual theft activity and illegal connections — given to residential and commercial enterprises in rural Islamabad by some CDA officials — under the carpet.

Illegal connections at several locations had also been given through excavations beneath the main pipeline and the stolen connections have deftly been covered under mounds of soil.

While a majority of Islamabad urban residents live without water or receive it for a few hours daily, most of the rural residents, commercial enterprises and service stations receive the commodity the whole day through these illegal connections. The CDA water agents charge Rs30,000 to Rs50,000 per residential connection and Rs100,000 to Rs15,000 per commercial connection, one of the sources told The Nation.

Although the exact number of the these illegal connections allocated by this CDA mafia network is not known, the figure roughly stands between 20,000 and 30,000 and the long-neglected and corrupted water system of the Capital Development Authority is near the verge of collapse.

According to available documents and sources, the CDA water mafia and its agents are an organized group led by a few players, who routinely outwit the authorities and even if they are caught and faced inquiries, they end up only being suspended, but they never give up their sordid activity.

The so-called inquiries go on and on, while the CDA agents led by foremen Saifullah and fitter of production division Muhammad Ilyas (both currently suspended) continue to allocate illegal connections to residential, commercial and institutions.

Interestingly, both Saifullah and Ilyas, who have been transferred to HRD Office, continue to draw salaries and other grants despite being suspended.

“Under Regulation 8.05 of CDA Employees (Service) Regulation 1992, the services of Mr. Saifullah, Foreman and Muhammad Ilyas, Fitter of Production Division-I are hereby by suspended with immediate effect. During their suspension, they will draw subsistence grant equal to full pay and allowance that they were drawing immediately before their suspension,” says one of their suspension orders signed by the Director Water Supply.

During the probe of the whole affair, it was seen on several spots that these agents led by Saifullah and Ilyas had given thousands of illegal connections to residential and commercial areas of rural Islamabad.

The “proceeds” of these illegal connections also allegedly go to the pockets of some high-ranking CDA officials who allow this network to do its job, which they call public service. In return, these illegal connections suck almost 30 percent of the CDA water that is supposed to be supplied to Islamabad’s urban residents.

Interestingly, over 60 illegal service stations have also been set up on these illegal connections from Bara Kahu to Bari Imam and they get full-pressured running water from the main CAD pipeline from dawn to dusk while the sectorial areas of Islamabad continue to face severe water shortage.

According to one CDA foreman, whenever the enforcement team takes action against illegal connections, MCI area Nazims and councillors approach the CDA and MCI high-ups asking them to instruct the teams not to sever connections of their voters, and most often, the enforcement teams return without achieving the desired results.

And if they catch the agents of this water mafia and report it to the CDA high-ups, they launch formal inquiries and the highest punishment transpires into suspension orders.

According to the sources, the water mafia and their agents allegedly enjoy the “proceeds” of this dishonest activity from the beneficiaries every month. The CDA high-ups have kept a complete mum over the whole shoddy affair.

During interaction with CDA and MCI senior officials, it transpired that the “proceeds” from the illegal connections end up going into the pockets of Saifullah, Ilyas and some other senior officials, causing millions of rupees monthly losses to the CDA — the manager and the distributor of water resources in Islamabad.

According to the sources, Saifullah and his henchmen are so prevailing that they harass, stalk, threaten and beat CDA duty staff if they put up resistance or dare to stop them from giving illegal connections.

“Saifullah and his agents beat up one of our foremen and fatally injured him in the head a year back after he reported their illegal activity to the CDA high-ups. Later, the injured staff member died of cancer after his head injury did not heal,” claimed one of the MCI official requesting anonymity as, according to him, if he was identified, he could face the same fate. 

While traces of Saifullah and his agents’ night activity are ubiquitous in rural areas of Islamabad, the residents of urban areas continue to bear the brunt of their sordid work.

Interestingly, former Senate chairman Nayyar Bukhari has also been getting water through an illegal connection from the Capital Development Authority water pipeline passing through the area near his palatial estate in rural Islamabad. Currently, the settled and rural areas of Islamabad get 77.60 million gallon daily (MGD) water against a total demand of 220 MGD for a population of about 2.170 million from Simly Dam, Korang Dam and tubewells. There are a total of 193 tubewells across Islamabad and of them, 160 were operational while 33 were out of order.

“The dams and tube-wells can easily cater to the needs of Islamabad round the year if the CDA deals with these illegal connections and theft with iron-fist,” a CDA official said also suggesting establishing “check dams” to store the water released through spillways when reservoirs are filled by the rainwater.

According to one MCI senior official, the experiment of bringing the ICT Administration and the CDA under the umbrella of the MCI remained an awful experiment.

“The MCI mayor instead of taking input from the ICT Administration and the CDA to sort out the water woes of rural and urban Islamabad oscillated from the MCI secretariat to CDA headquarters as its chairman and enjoyed all the perks and privileges while paying a scant attention to issues facing the capital city. At the same time, the ICT Administration officials continue to gulp down the allocated funds for water projects. They have not launched a single water project in the last many years for the rural areas, which fall in their purview, but continue to steal water from the CDA main pipeline without being billed or directly paying to the civic agency. “These illegal connections and stolen water are not only depriving the urban residents of their due share but also causing millions of rupees losses to the CDA each month,” the MCI official said adding that either the MCI should financially be made independent or the whole local government system should be done away with.

He also demanded that an inquiry should also be launched against the ICT Administration officials as to how and where they utilized the allocated funds for water projects in the last so many years without launching a single project for water needs of rural residents, who continue to steal the CDA water 24- without paying a single penny.

During a visit to areas in Bari Imam and Bara Kahu, it was witnessed that the 48-inch CDA main pipeline had been damaged at several locations through illegal connections, and a plenty of water continues to leak. Another CDA official said that if the illegal connections were done away with and the rural areas were regularized through legal connections, water was enough in the dams and tube-wells to cater to the needs of both rural and urban Islamabad for the whole year.

“The CDA will also earn an income through billing if the rural areas are brought under the water connections regime,” he said adding that if the CDA, the ICT Administration and the MCI had supplied piped water to everyone, why would anyone look to the mafia.

According to one official, the CDA continues to pay back to the Japan government for the pipeline that had been laid down against a borrowed sum.