KARACHI: Farzana Thaheem, a girl in her twenties, walks towards her village along with a group of women attired in colorful dresses fetching water from a nearby canal in a small village in Sindh’s coastal district Thatta. The residents of Noor Muhammad Thaheem village have no official water supply; therefore the women walk miles every day to fetch water for their families from a distance.
“Every day most of my day time is spent collecting water and the exercise is tiresome,” Farzana tells her plight.
It’s not just Farzana’s village, but even the towns and cities across Sindh have no access of potable drinking water.
Sanghar city, district headquarters of Sindh’s central district with approximate population of 300,000, portrays a similar picture. The city’s water supply scheme was constructed in 1968, for a population of 50,000, is insufficient to meet its current needs.
Locals like Advocate Muhammad Qazafi thinks, this becomes very suitable condition for commercial water tanker service to step in and make money.
“As per estimates, for the Sanghar city, there are only 7,000 households with legal water connections, the rest are have illegal connections,” said Qazafi, adding, “apart from this, there is a pending water supply scheme for Sanghar city since 2008,” Qazafi adds.
Different regions in Sindh province are either facing acute water shortage or its population is forced to drink polluted water. In the Thar region, water shortage and the drought claimed lives of 3,000 children since 2012. The drought was also responsible for severe poverty, which caused malnutrition.
In this scenario, Supreme Court of Pakistan, following a petition which alleged the failure of authorities in providing potable drinking water and clean environment to people of Sindh, ordered the formation of a commission headed by a Sindh High Court Judge to probe in to the matter.
Advocate Shahab Usto moved a petition to Supreme Court of Pakistan alleging the failure of authorities in providing potable drinking water and clean environment to people of Sindh.
“Due to lack of clean drinking water and sanitation, people are suffering untold pains and miseries in the form of varied diseases, lost economic opportunities, decrepit physical infrastructure, polluted environment and the indignity and shame of having to live through dirty, dingy and unpalatable conditions,” petitioner Advocate Usto told Truth Tracker.
Karachi Water and Sewage Board (KWSB), responsible for provision of drinking water and sanitation, admits that the city is becoming difficult to govern in terms of drinking water and sanitation facilities.
“Increasing population of Karachi is great challenge for water and sanitation facilities,” Misbahud Din Farid, managing director KWSB told the Truth Tracker. “Besides being largest populated city of Pakistan, Karachi is home of around 10,000 small and big industrial units. So it (KWSB) can not make a big difference no matter how many schemes are brought in, since the population growth is unplanned and new industrial units are setting up,” he adds.
Dr Noman Ahmed, Chairperson of Architecture and Urban Planning Department of NED University, believes that without effective and strong local government system, provision of potable drinking water is not possible.
“But the problem lies in that we didn’t have local government system for last ten years or so,” Dr. Noman informed Truth Tracker.
“In the recent past, a successful scheme of clean drinking water was introduced across the country during regime of former President Pervez Musharraf. The reason behind its success was that it was run through the local governments. In Karachi even today people in their respective areas fetch water from the private water plants,” Dr. Noman elaborates.
A recent World Bank report declared Karachi as one of the ten worst cities to live. The report titled ‘Pakistan Development Update – Making growth matter’, which was launched in collaboration with Government of Sindh, particularly notes that water scarcity is the most serious and imminent problem given the fact that existing water supply caters to only 55% of the city’s needs. The report also laments the fact that the city lacks infrastructure to treat and dispose of sewerage water and every year 475 million gallons of sewerage water is released directly into the open sea without any treatment.
“The report holds bad governance and lack of a formal policy for water supply and sanitation as being responsible for water scarcity, pointing out the fact that only 50 percent of the garbage the city produces has been sent to landfill sites,” Usto adds.
In this perspective, you can witness groups of children playing on the edges of Karachi’s major sewerage drain, Gujjar Nullah, carrying raw sewerage from different areas towards Arabian Sea.
“The encroachments around the drain have exposed the population, especially children, to high risk for health. Children in the vicinity have no other place to play but on the embankments of the drain,” said Akram, a dweller of the area.
Dr. Noman’s views that sanitation schemes were not upgraded keeping up with the increasing number of population. He said, “The present sanitation system in Sindh has become inadequate to cater the needs of the people as there is a huge pressure on the sewerage outlet system because of fresh new multistoried constructions on single plots.”
Rasheed Channa, spokesman of Chief Minister Sindh admitted that PPP-led Sindh government did not work on provision of water and sanitation facilities in entire province. However, in his words, one of the major hurdles in provision of drinking water and better sanitation was the law and order situation across Karachi as the government solely concentrated on maintenance of law and order.
“After normalizing of the situation, several schemes of drinking are in the pipeline and some of them like K-4 for water and S-3 for sewerage have already been initiated,” Channa said, adding “similarly government has paid special heed for provision of drinking water in Tharparkar by installing Reverse Osmosis (RO) plants in record numbers.