ISLAMABAD: Groundwater in the federal capital has lowered by five times over the last five years, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi said in response to a question by Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Ateeq Sheikh on Wednesday.

In a written reply, the state minister told Senate a 6ft decrease in ground water was observed in 2013, a 10ft decrease in 2014 and a 16ft, 23ft and 30ft decrease up to 2017.

He said ground water is lowering in Islamabad due to extensive pumping by departments and residents to meet water requirements and due to below normal rainfall.

Mr Afridi said no concrete measures were taken in the past to facilitate the recharging of the aquifer and stressed on the need for constructing small reservoirs and ponds in the existing natural streams and installing recharging wells to maintain the ground water level.

Water level is decreasing due to extensive pumping, below normal rainfall, Shehryar Afridi tells Senate

Capital Development Authority (CDA) officials told Dawn there are several reasons for the drop in groundwater level. They said the capital city has the highest population growth rate and the city has also been witnessing a mushroom growth of buildings.

The population of Islamabad was recorded at 800,000 in the 1998 census and 2 million in the latest census. However, the water sources are the same as they were in the 90s.

The water supply directorate of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) is unable to meet water requirements of the city and residents have to turn to using ground water instead.

Water Directorate Director Nasir Jamil Butt said MCI is supplying 60 million gallons daily (MGD) of water when the requirements is 110MGD for the urban population. Sources said most of the rural population depend on water bores.

There are about 50 legal and 110 illegal housing societies, most of which pump ground water to meet their demand but the civic agency is yet to take action against them.

Many urban areas where water supply is short, including I-9, I-10, G-7 and G-8, have to rely on water bores as well.

CDA also did not construct any dams for storing rain water and the city is supplied water from Simly Dam, Khanpur Dam and tubewells.

“I do agree that the groundwater level is lowering at an alarming pace,” said MCI Chief Metropolitan Officer Syed Najaf Iqbal.

He said MCI has proposed several steps to control the situation.

“We are in talks with the finance ministry for a special package of Rs2 billion for improving Islamabad’s water supply,” he said, and that if the project is approved, water recharging wells will be created in order to raise the water level.

MCI is planning on constructing some 40 small dams and reservoirs in various areas of the capital city, he said.

In July this year, MCI also decided to build at least five reservoirs according to the recommendations made in a high level consultative meeting.

According to the minutes of the meeting, held on June 27, 2018, the chief justice urged MCI and the Islamabad Capital Territory administration to construct small dams to cope with the shortage of water in the capital.

The MCI was to build water reservoirs, including in the Margalla Hills, but no progress has been made on this yet.

The project for the conduction of water from the Tarbela Dam, which is seen as a long-term solution to the water shortage, is also facing delays for the last decade and is only discussed in meetings.

According to the unapproved PC-1, the project will cost Rs77 billion and will provide 100MGD each for Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2018

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