KARACHI: A multiparty conference (MPC) organised by the Sindh government on Friday held deliberations for hours on the prevailing water crisis in the metropolis and came up with some short- and long-term solutions.
Journalists were not allowed to cover the event that was held behind closed doors at the seventh floor of the New Sindh Secretariat.
Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah presided over the meeting that included representatives of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Pak Sarzameen Party, Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Awami National Party, builders, trade and industry organisations, etc.
After the meeting, a spokesman for the CM said that as a short-term measure the meeting agreed on the formation of a committee comprising one representative each from all stakeholders to control water losses, theft and improve distribution system.
Murad takes politicians, businessmen, traders into confidence on water crisis in city; says next round will be held in August
He said the long-term solution included installation of a 50 million gallon daily (MGD) water recycling plant for industries, installation of a five MGD desalination plant to provide water to the Defence Housing Authority, another larger desalination plant in Hub — which is part of Balochistan and not Sindh.
But after the meeting, MQM-P leader Khwaja Izharul Hasan told reporters that his party had concerns over the formation of the new committee and it was beyond his understanding as to why the CM formed a new body despite having the governing body of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board.
Murad concedes gravity of water crisis
The CM’s spokesman said that in his introductory remarks Mr Shah said that there was a serious issue of water in the city.
“In our system hardly 480 MGD water is available against the requirement of 1,000 MGD,” the CM said, adding “If we distribute it equitably everyone will get a sip and if it is distributed inequitably then it will quench some people’s thirst but others will die [of] thirst.”
He said that he invited political and non-political stakeholders to find out a consensus solution to the problem.
“Our presence here shows that we all have pain in our hearts for the people of Karachi who are facing water shortage,” he said, adding: “I want you [all participants] to discuss the matter with open heart and mind and then find out a solution so that we work together to resolve it.”
512 MGD shortfall
On his directives the managing director of the KWSB, Asadullah Khan, and K-IV project director Asad Zamin gave separate briefings to the participants.
According to Mr Khan, the official population of the city is 17 million and daily requirement of water at the rate of 45 gallons per person per day comes to 918 MGD. Presently, total supply of water to city is 580 MGD — 480 MGD water from Dhabeji and Gharo and 100 MGD from Hub. The water losses recorded in the city are 30 per cent, or 174 MGD, thus the net supply of water to the city came to 406 MGD, which is 44pc of the demand with a shortfall of 512 MGD, or 56pc of the demand.
Mr Zamin told the meeting that the K-IV project had been given to Nespak for a third-party verification of design.
The CM’s spokesperson said that Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi of the PTI said on the occasion that the KWSB must reduce its water losses, which came to 174 MGD. He suggested the government start recycling the already used water and provide it to industries and other institutions where required.
Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar said that even if K-IV project was completed the KWSB would not be able to provide water to citizens because the water distribution system was very defective and obsolete. He suggested a new infrastructure for water distribution and urged the KWSB to rationalise its staff and let go the old staff members who have failed to deliver.
Khwaja Izhar and Mohammad Hussain of the MQM-P said that the solution to the present crisis lay in stopping water theft and FIRs must be lodged against those involved in water theft.
‘Sindh govt shouldn’t control KWSB’
PSP chairman and former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal said that in the entire 130km strip of the K-IV the most expensive work was of pumping water. He claimed that out of 660 MGD water only five MGD was required by Bahria Town, but a perception was created that the entire K-IV project had been diverted for the sake of the mega housing project.
Later, a PSP statement said that Mr Kamal appreciated the CM for convening the conference.
He also said that the Sindh government should not directly control the KWSB and instead give its control to Karachi’s local government. He said that elected representatives of union committee should have direct access to issues relating to water and other utilities.
Shahi Syed of the ANP urged the KWSB to control its water losses so that another 170 MGD or less could be included in the system.
Javed Bilwani of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the people did not pay their water bills and there was a need to work out slabs for use of water so that the financial position of the KWSB could be improved.
KWSB told to curb water losses
After hearing all participants, the CM announced taking immediate measures to control water losses as well as water theft. He said by the end of October another 100 MGD and 65 MGD would be added in the system.
He said that he was negotiating with Hubco for procuring a 1,300 MW power plant for Karachi. He said he was also working with Hubco to install a desalination plant of 1,200 MGD for Karachi.
He said he would speak to the prime minister during his visit to the city on July 12 about the K-IV and desalination projects in Hub.
Taking other immediate steps, he directed the KWSB to flush its water reservoirs, improve billing and recovery system, make an appropriate and equitable water distribution plan, start water conservancy and install a water recycling plant.
As part of long-term measures, he asked the KWSB to evolve a separate sewerage department within its domain and prepare a plan for reconstruction of its distribution system and also include the areas where its network has not been laid.
‘WB agrees to finance K-IV’
The CM said that he would invite the participants of the meeting again next month when Nespak would submit its report. “I would take all of you into confidence and seek your input to complete the K-IV project,” he said.
About K-IV, the chief minister said that the Frontier Works Organisation had given a proposal for construction of a 650 MGD conveyance system as a one-time activity instead of constructing three different canals.
He added that the other issues were installation of 50 MW power plant required for pumping stations, construction of staff colonies staff, carrying out electrical and mechanical works and launching of augmentation project.
“All these components will require huge funds. Therefore, I have started talking with the World Bank, which has agreed to finance the project on the condition of revamping of the KWSB,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2019