KARACHI: A ban on filling tankers from Lasbela Canal has dried up supply to Karachi’s Mawach Goth, Baldia, Naval Colony, Ittehad Town, Orangi Town, Gadap.
“A water tanker which normally costs Rs2000 wasn’t available even at a whopping price of Rs6000,” shouted PSP MPA Saifuddin Khalid in the Sindh Assembly. He decided to protest by refusing to leave the House until 100 tankers were sent to Orangi Town. He brought extra clothes and chickpeas to stay the night.
Khalid was not the only one who has been upset. Protests have broken out in dry neighbourhoods.
The crisis began 10 days ago when Lasbela DC Shabbir Ahmed Mengal wrote to the Sindh chief secretary and Kalat commissioner, asking them to stop the theft of water for Karachi through illegal hydrants and tankers that went to the Lasbela Canal. Twenty men were booked and scores of illegal water hydrants were razed.
Mr Mengal told SAMAA Digital that he was under pressure from the Balochistan government to act against unlawful water supplies but the problem could not be addressed because the Irrigation department and police were in cahoots. “Illegal water hydrants were either directly installed by local political and tribal notables or with their tacit support,” the DC said.
Meanwhile, Hub Dam, which supplies water to Karachi, hit its dead level. If it does not rain soon the crisis will get worse. Karachi is supposed to get a 70% share from Hub dam. But if there isn’t any water in it, Karachi is affected. Its levels have dropped from 115 MGD to 30 MGD. This is causing the shortage in Orangi Town, Baldia, SITE, Gadap Town, Nazimabad.
“There has been no cut in Karachi’s water supply from the dam but no leniency will be shown to tankers that have been transporting water to the city illegally,” Mr Mengal said.
The general secretary of the Karachi Water Tankers Owners Association, Huzoor Ahmed, has blamed the Karachi water board. “This is an artificial crisis which is aimed at increasing rates,” he told SAMAA Digital. “If this crisis ends, their pockets will be emptied. Tanker drivers have to pay the Hub police Rs500 and the Manghopir police station Rs200 which is why rates have gone up to Rs6000, he said. The DC of Lasbela rejected these allegations and said all illegal hydrants at Lasbela canal have been demolished and others are being monitored by his team and a special magistrate.
As the uproar worsened, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had to order tankers to be sent to Karachi West. It needs one million gallons a day. The DC West said the water board is providing 300 million gallons through tankers but this is not enough for his district. He told the chief minister that his district had only 257 water tankers, after which Murad Ali Shah ordered the administration to arrange for 100 fiber tanks to store water.
In Karachi, water comes from Keenjhar Lake and Hub dam through Dhabeji, Gharo and Hub pumping stations.