‘Mismanagement, wastefulness adding to Karachi’s water crisis’

Published March 1, 2020
The session on the city’s water crisis under way at the KLF on Saturday.—White Star
The session on the city’s water crisis under way at the KLF on Saturday.—White Star

KARACHI: An important session on Karachi’s water crisis moderated by Simi Kamal on the second day of the 11th Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) managed to enrich the audience with a fair bit of important information.

Khalid Mahmood Shaikh, a member of the founding team of the Sindh Public Private Partnership Unit who was also with the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, said 95 per cent of public sector institutions in the country didn’t enjoy a good reputation.

Responding to a question about the reputation of the KWSB, he added that inefficiency of such institutions was an issue. He quoted a line from Shamsur Rehman Farooqi’s novel Kai Chaand Thay Sir-i-Aasman, “teen paisey ki amadani hai uss mein se aik paisa to maashki le jata hai.” He pointed out we have maintained this tradition.

Mr Shaikh said he worked for a year in the water department. The basic issue was of mismanagement. There was tremendous wastefulness. It could be controlled but there were political and administrative compulsions. Karachi got water from two major sources: Keenjhar Lake and Hub Dam. The former has a quota of 650mgd water but due to technical issues (pumping lines at Dhabeji) no more than 450mgd can be had. Also, Hub canal was in a bad shape and work was being done to improve it, he added.

An expert says 95pc of govt organisations don’t enjoy good reputation

Hubco’s Farrukh Rasheed said when the power issue emerged in Pakistan the company gave a vision to solve the crisis. It has made an investment which will be able to generate around 4,000MW and provide it to the grid.

Further evaluation brought to their notice the issue of water. Figures show by 2025 scarcity would reach an extreme level.

He said all over the world governments alone don’t resolve water issues. It requires a public-private partnership. So the company decided to take part in resolving the crisis by taking measures such as water recycling.

Babar Siddiqui, who also represents Hubco, said a few years ago the company thought that since it’s been working in Karachi as well, why shouldn’t it do something that could give back [something positive] to the city.

In that regard, water came up as one area that needed attention. Their effort started from zero. The things that came to the fore were: how could the quantity of water be increased (Karachi is closer to the sea whose water can be processed, but it’s an expensive proposition). Also, why not treat sewage for industrial use.

Answering a question about the role of the media in the issue, journalist Wusatullah Khan said that the media was neither aware nor had the desire to know about the issue. He then went on to talk about how people complicate issues in order not to solve them. He gave an example that when he was a kid he used to drink water from taps.

Mr Shaikh took issue with Mr Khan saying it’s easy to simplify difficult things by writing articles, but the fact of the matter is it’s a complex issue. Political will is weak in this context. Since Mr Khan mentioned tap water that he used to drink, Mr Shaikh commented he’d also know about the mortality rate 20 years back compared to what it was now.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2020

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