• Moot calls for plugging leakages, theft in city’s water supplies
• Former SC judge says ex-CJP Gulzar let govt off the hook by dissolving Water Commission in 2020

KARACHI: Criticising an inordinate delay in the completion of the K-IV water project, speakers at a conference held on Monday in connection with World Water Day said Karachi was losing significant quantity of water to drawbacks in the existing system and theft, and there was an urgent need to overhaul the network.

They also emphasised the need for setting up an urban water regulatory authority, building check dams to prevent flooding and amending building rules to make provision of rainwater harvesting and water recycling in large houses and buildings mandatory.

Titled ‘Accelerating change’, the second international conference on sustainable water management was organised by the Pakistan Society of Plumbing Professionals (PSPP).

A key highlight of the conference was the presentation by Prof Syed Imran Ahmed, Director of the Panjwani-Hisaar Water Institute at the NED University of Engineering Technology.

He disagreed with a widely held belief about the country, including Karachi, getting water scarce in coming years.

Backing up his arguments with scientific evidence, he explained that the historical data of 28 years, climatic modelling and recent studies conducted upstream and in several watershed areas indicated that there would be sufficient water for the next few years. In fact, there would be increase in rainfall in the feeding areas.

“The average monthly flows have increased by more than six times in the winter months. This is attributed to increased winter precipitation (secondary peak in October) and increased snow and glacier melt due to warmer temperatures,” he said.

Prof Ahmed also talked about the role of Diamer Basha Dam in regularising water availability in the country during drought years and flood mitigation by allowing controlled release.

“This will be the largest water storage of Pakistan with a proposed gross storage capacity of about 8.1MAF. It will enhance life of Tarbela Dam by providing cleaner water as much of the sediment inflow would be trapped in Basha dam,” Prof Ahmed said, adding that the Tarbela dam had been experiencing severe sedimentation resulting in significant storage capacity’s loss.

Karachi getting less than allocated share of water

Coming to Karachi, he pointed out that there was a major problem with the supply system.

“Our studies show that Karachi is getting even less than its allocated share; it receives 493MGD against 550 MGD from the Keenjhar source and 84MGD from Hub Dam,” he said, while sharing studies’ findings.

He added that the city was losing water to system drawbacks/theft.

Earlier, Prof Noman Ahmed, Dean of Architecture and Management Sciences at the NED University, spoke about the need for institutional reforms in water supply and sanitation in Karachi and proposed an urban water authority with the key task to regulate all water-related agencies, including the Karachi Water Sewerage Board, bottled water producers, water tanker operators and groundwater producers.

“A comprehensive assessment of water and sewerage lines is long due. This shall enable the utilities to examine the operational and maintenance expenditures and core water loss reduction initiatives,” he said, adding that tanker service must function under laid down rules set by the regulatory authority, since it’s a commercial operation.

In his speech, retired Justice Amir Hani Muslim traced the history the Supreme Court-mandated Water Commission set up in 2018, its operation and performance, which led to several government initiatives (on court’s intervention) in the following year to improve water and sanitation facilities across the province.

Unfortunately, he regretted, a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed dissolved the commission in 2020, without citing a reason.

“He let the government off the hook [as the court didn’t bind the government to implement the commission’s recommendations],” he said.

Engineer Sajjad Ghani of PSPP, Engr Sohail Bashir representing the Institution of Engineers Pakistan, Dr Samiyah Tasleem of the Health and Technology Innovation Consultant Group, Sana Baxamoosa representing the Hisaar Foundation and NED University Vice Chancellor Prof Sarosh Hashmat Lodi also spoke.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2023

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