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Acouple of years ago, the preparation of a draft of the Punjab Municipal Water Act and its approval from the cabinet and the provincial assembly was discussed in the headquarters of the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) and the Punjab government but nothing happened after that as it was dropped from the official list of priorities.

After the act, Wasa would have got the power to levy water conservation/aquifer charges/tax/fee on about 2,000 tube wells, extracting water and lowering the underground water table.

Wasa had prepared itself to levy the water tax soon after approval of the new act as its own regulatory and operational laws don’t empower it to own the whole underground water of Lahore.

According to an official estimate, 2,000 tube wells are being run in the provincial metropolis under Wasa, private housing societies, industry and the government departments. They all are extracting over 4,000 acre-feet water per day, lowering the city’s underground water level by over two foot annually.

If this continues, the city could face a severe water shortage, according to Wasa officials. They say that during a survey, 1,309 tube wells were identified to be owned and operated by private housing societies, government departments, industry and DHA/Cantonment. These 1,309 tube wells include 849 being used for domestic, 233 for industrial and 227 for commercial purposes. They have a discharge capacity of about 1,470 cusecs and are operated 12 hours a day, extracting approximately 1,942 acre-feet per day on an average.

The remaining 491 tube wells, with a discharge capacity of 1,564 cusecs on average, are being operated 16 hours a day by Wasa, extracting approximately 2,068 acre-feet water per day.

“In absence of water act/laws, Wasa cannot impose tax on such a huge number of tube wells and had the act been approved a couple of years ago, the revenue-deficit Wasa would have earned huge revenue under the water tax. But the law is yet to be approved despite the fact its final draft has been approved by the government. It awaits cabinet and assembly approval,” a senior official said while talking to Dawn.

He said Wasa, under technical assistance of experts, had proposed imposing water conservation charges under the LDA Act 1975 but it couldn’t do as its own act didn’t empower it to claim ownership of the Lahore’s water.

Under the LDA Act, the authority may, in a prescribed manner, levy charges on any person who installs or intends to install a tube well. He said Wasa was in dire need of revenue to meet its increasing expenses and the government must enforce the water act after approval from assembly.

Training sessions of the drivers of low occupancy vehicles being run by the private operators under the regulations of the Lahore Transport Company are held from time to time. “Drivers are being trained by the officials of LTC’s operations and enforcement departments under the supervision of motor mobile patrolling inspectors. The training sessions are being organised at the Railway Station Bus depot,” an LTC official said. He said last week, scores of drivers were imparted refreshers/training on traffic laws, driving, etc. – (khalidpak284@yahoo.com)

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2016