KARACHI: The Sindh government on Monday made it clear that it was committed to building the crucial bulk water project, called K-IV, for Karachi even if the federal government did not pay half of the required funds it had promised.
“The first phase of the K-IV project will be completed [within] two years, which the Sindh government is committed to doing even if the federal government does not have the required fund as per the formula agreed upon,” said Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani while wrapping up the debate on water-related issues in the provincial assembly on three identical adjournment motions with Speaker Siraj Durrani in the chair.
The motions were tabled by Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s parliamentary leader Kanwar Naveed and his party colleagues Nadeem Siddiqui and Jawed Hanif.
“Those who claim that this project will take 10 years to complete can rest assured we will complete its first phase [within] two years,” said the minister.
He, however, hoped the federal government would contribute half of the cost, which had swollen to a whopping Rs75 billion from the earlier estimate of less than Rs30bn.
‘We will complete its first phase within two years’
“The present federal government has many parliament members and ministers from Karachi in addition to the governor and we hope the federal government will chip in with the required funds.”
He said a big mistake was committed by everyone in 2007 that began with the initial summary and consultants and travelled to the top central forums such as the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) and none of them noticed some huge components were missing from the project.
Availability of water
He said making a grand project was not the only thing that could reduce the water woes of the city; what was necessary for the scheme was the availability of water itself.
“We need more water when K-IV becomes a reality. The Sindh government has constantly been requesting the federal government to sanction 1,200 cusec additional water dedicated to Karachi. But so far our requests have not been positively responded to.”
He asked the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) members on the opposition benches to take up the issue with Islamabad as it was Karachi’s right to have its own dedicated quantum of water because it was the city which served the entire country and welcomed everyone coming from the length and breadth of Pakistan.
He, however, said that so far Islamabad had not approved water for the 260mgd first phase of K-IV. However, even if the federal government did not sanction the required water, Sindh would not leave its teeming capital thirsty.
“Karachi is our heart. Sindh will direct whatever amount of water is required to its capital from its own share if we don’t get a dedicated quantum of water required for the project,” said the minister.
Alleged supply to a housing scheme
He dismissed the claim made by a member that the water for Karachi was being directed to a grand housing scheme sitting on the fringes of the sprawling metropolis, adding that the route of water coming to Karachi was different.
Mr Ghani said the K-IV project was conceived in 2007 when “neither the Pakistan Peoples Party was in power nor Bahria Town existed”.
He said all meetings related to the mammoth scheme were held in Governor House when Dr Ishratul Ibad resided there. About realignments, he said 21 such alignments were made of which 13 were major and three technical. Besides, he said the remaining 10 involved disputed lands of which nine were outside the limits of Bahria Town.
He said the city suffered from deficient water supply. Its Hub source, which supplied 100mgd to the city’s western neighbourhoods, had dried up because of no rains. He said the government had not dropped a 65mgd scheme as had been claimed by the opposition.
He said a power plant would be commissioned through public-private partnership to get 50MW electricity to run the K-IV project.
“Everything for this project is being utilised by the Frontier Works Organisation. This project is critically important for Karachi. We’ll not abandon it because of an increase in its cost. It has to be completed.”
Minister Ghani said Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had taken up the issue of water shortage in Sindh on every available forum in addition to several letters on the subject he had written to the relevant federal authorities.
‘We are clearing the mess’
He said the MQM-P should not talk about the plight of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board.
“We are clearing the mess that you created,” he said.
Mr Ghani said more than 330 reverse osmosis plants were not installed in time as 100 of them were stopped by the caretaker government.
Mover Kanwar Naveed criticised the government for failing to make an effective strategy vis-à-vis the K-IV project.
He said the water tanker mafia’s business involved billions of rupees. He asked the government to make greater investment in reducing people’s hardships.
Leader of the Opposition Firdous Naqvi said the availability of drinking water should be made in the light of an increase in Sindh’s population. He said drinking water should be the first priority and everything else came next.
He warned that the opposition would not sit idle if the government failed to evolve some concrete action plan to end the water woes of Karachi and elsewhere in Sindh.
Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s Abdul Rasheed referred to an earlier statement by a PTI member saying that it was an insult to the democratic institution, ie provincial assembly, to call for handing over a public entity such as the KWSB to the armed forces.
“We should hand entire Pakistan to our forces if we have no ability to run it. Our armed forces should do their own duty and we should do our own,” said Mr Rasheed.
He asked the federal government to sanction 1,200 cusec water exclusively for Karachi.
PPP’s Heer Ismail Soho wondered how a member could say no water should be given to lands for irrigation before people got it for drinking. “How can we get food when we don’t irrigate lands?”
PTI’s Khurram Sher Zaman demanded that the KWSB be handed over to the Rangers or armed forces as the Sindh government had failed to provide water to everyone in the city.
MQM-P’s Khwaja Izharul Hasan said the city received 450mgd water and everyone could get water if it was rationed properly.
Khwaja Izhar said there was a colony in Karachi where houses were being built with water meant for drinking needs of the city.
He said FIRs should be registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act against those involved in water theft. He claimed that the K-IV project could not be completed before 2028.
He warned he would be part of the sit-ins that the residents of Karachi would be organising against the non-availability of water.
Nand Kumar, Imdad Pitafi, Shabbir Qureshi, Tariq Talpur, Jawed Hanif, and Nadeem Siddiqui also spoke.
Responding to a query asked in a previous sitting, Minister Ghani said Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar had informed him that only those shops would be razed which were built on encroached lands inside or outside the markets, and the ones duly allotted to shopkeepers would not be removed.
He said the Sindh government was devising a strategy to provide livelihood to people affected by the ongoing anti-encroachment operation in Karachi.
Responding to Jawed Hanif’s query whether the Council of Common Interests had approved a summary of the final results of the 2017 census without a post-enumeration audit of five per cent census blocks, Mr Ghani said census was not on the agenda of the recent CCI meeting.
Earlier, calling-attention notices by Rabia Azfar, Seema Zia, Shehzad Awan, and Adeeba Hasan were responded to by ministers Azra Pechuho and Saeed Ghani before Speaker Siraj Durrani prorogued the session.
Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2018