DHA residents in Karachi paying hefty water tax despite getting no supply via lines

Published September 30, 2021
WATER tankers of the Cantonment Board Clifton are getting filled at an official hydrant on Wednesday. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
WATER tankers of the Cantonment Board Clifton are getting filled at an official hydrant on Wednesday. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: It is still early in the day. Just like a systematic and efficient production line-up, the blue and white sweet water bowsers or tankers of Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) are aligned for their fill at a busy hydrant under the big gray overhead water tank off Khayaban-i-Ittehad in Phase VI of Defence Housing Authority (DHA).

As is said about this posh area of Karachi, spanning eight phases, not to mention DHA City, the underground tanks are usually empty unless you get a tanker to do the needful. Water in DHA only gathers when it rains. Then what to talk of the tanks when even the basements are full.

A sense of right and wrong tells you that if you cannot supply piped water to your residents, who are already paying hefty water taxes, which is included in their property tax, then at least make sure they get that water through other means, such as through tankers. It also used to be like that. At least until some years ago but then CBC started charging for their tankers.

“I remember a time when we used to get four free tankers in a month from the CBC to make up for what we were not getting through the water lines. Then it was three and now two, which also cost Rs750 each,” a resident of Phase VI told Dawn. “And there also you get a tanker on a ‘first come first serve’ basis. I call, I also book through the CBCare mobile app.

Citizens say CBC used to provide four free water tankers every month but now it charges Rs750 for one tanker

“And just two tankers of 1,000 gallons only are not enough for a month even for a small family of four. The only good thing about it is that it is sweet water. Otherwise this price is comparative to the market rates,” he added.

Dr Nasreen, who did not know about the app, said that even getting a tanker is very difficult. “Previously we used to fill out a form every month for two small tankers. But now the form is valid for just a day. If you can’t get the water the same day, you have to start the process all over again,” she said.

Water tax termed unfair

Kamran, another DHA resident, said that it was unfair of the CBC to be charging water tax when they cannot deliver water through the lines and were also charging for their tankers. “I am paying Rs18,000 per annum as water tax and still besides that also paying for the CBC tankers, if I can get those, as well as the commercial tankers,” he said.

“We are told that there is always a shortfall in the supply from the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board [KWSB] but I think that both the CBC and DHA are working in cahoots. Water is as big a business here as it is in the rest of the city,” he said.

Hanif, who lives in a small apartment in DHA, says his water expenditures amount to Rs6,000 to Rs7,000 every month besides the annual tax. “There used to be no issue of water shortage in my area some 15 years ago but now there is not a drop of water coming through the lines and we are forced to buy it through tankers,” he said.

Mirza Aleem said he feels there is corruption in all departments of DHA and CBC. “We are charged for water in CBC bills but only a few get water from them. And what is happening with that desalination plant,” he questioned. “Either remove water tax or apply nominal charges for it. Besides, many of the CBC water tankers are rusted and in bad shape. They are also short of tankers. They need at least 50 more.”

Sultan Durrani, a senior resident of DHA who had only just come out of the CBC office on Khayaban-i-Rahat after paying his property tax, said that the lines in his area were laid some 40 years back. “They were not treated or insulated to withstand the nature of soil here. Therefore, the lines corroded and turned brittle so we are no longer getting any water through them,” he said.

But he also pointed out that it was more expensive to get water from tankers. “There are vehicles that need to be driven by someone. They also run on fuel, which costs. And they need regular maintenance to remain in service. So the amount being charged for each tanker may be also justified,” he said.

‘Scarce water still comes through lines’

When Dawn tried to reach out to CBC to explain the reason for charging for the tankers besides the water tax, we were asked to speak to either Superintendent Khalid Mahmood or Naeem Akhtar, both of whom could not be reached as their phones were constantly busy.

Later, a nameless timid voice at the other end explained that the Rs750 per tanker were water delivery charges while the tax includes line charges. “The bowser system is separate,” it was announced.

When asked then what were residents paying water tax for when they have to pay for bowsers or tankers, the person said that there is still some water that comes through the lines though very scarce.

“There has been a severe shortage since September 1 only, which is due to KWSB. But if you are just not getting any water, you need to see the water supervisor in your area so that they can get your lines checked,” it was advised.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2021

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