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QUETTA, July 1: Massive migration is feared from Gwadar, the port town and purported future economic hub of Balochistan, as the region’s main source of drinking water, Ankara Kaur Dam, will dry up in coming days if monsoon rains are not received in its catchment areas.

“The entire district of Gwadar has been facing an acute shortage of drinking water for several months as the water in the dam has dropped to the dead level and it is now almost empty. For the past two years, monsoon seasons have passed without rain in Gwadar and other districts of Makran division,” a local leader said.

The public health department is supplying one million gallons of water a day to Gwadar town, while its requirement is 3.6 million gallons.

Rising level of silt in the dam, that has completed half of its stipulated life, has also affected its capacity.

Lack of rain has caused acute shortage of water in Jiwani, Pishikan, Sarbandar, Piliry, Nagor and Nalnet Klanch. “Local people are forced to spend a hefty amount from their meagre income for purchasing drinking water from the tanker mafia in most areas of Makran,” Kohda Babar, a leader of the Balochistan National Party-A, told Dawn.

The water supplied from the dam is not properly treated, resulting in a large number of waterborne diseases. “The problem can be solved to some extent by installing reverse osmosis plants in every locality for treating brackish water available underground. The permanent solution is to bring water from Mirani Dam to Gwadar,” the BNP-A leader said.

Official sources claimed that the government had released billions of rupees for installing desalination plants to filter two million gallons of seawater a day for the town.

They said funds had also been released for four plants to filter seawater and supply 100,000 gallons of water to Gwadar, Jiwani, Sarbandar and Pasni, but the work had not been completed by the contractors.

The sources said that despite release of Rs1.5 billion for the five plants, not a single glass of purified water was being supplied because of negligence of the Balochistan Development Authority and alleged embezzlement.

If dams are built on Dasht River and Basol stream, rainwater can be stored for drinking and irrigation.

The Mirani Dam, built at a cost of Rs6 billion, is unable to benefit the people of Makran because of faulty planning, local people say.

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani recently visited Gwadar and took various decisions to solve the water shortage problem.

“The chief minister approved several water projects and ordered the authorities concerned to expedite work on them projects,” Balochistan Fisheries Minister Mir Hamal Kalmati said.

Mr Kalmati, who is MPA from Gwadar, told this correspondent that the provincial government had approved Rs4 billion for Shadi Kaur Dam and Rs2 billion for Sawar Dam and work had begun on both reservoirs.

He agreed that connecting Mirani Dam with Gwadar was the only way to permanently resolve the water crisis.

However, he said, the administration in Kech district was opposing the suggestion.

“No practical step is visible to resolve the issue despite the claims and promises,” Abdul Hafiz Baloch, a resident of Gwadar, said. “Gwadar has been facing an acute water shortage problem for a decade but the authorities have failed to address the worsening situation,” he said.

On the other hand, officials of the public health department in the provincial capital said: “The issue will be resolved soon.”