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The beginnings of K-IV

Why the water board dreamed up the project in the first place

SAMAA | and - Posted: Oct 25, 2019 | Last Updated: 2 years ago
Posted: Oct 25, 2019 | Last Updated: 2 years ago

When the government plans to build something it has to create a Planning Commission Proforma. 

These are the PC-Is and PC-IIs  you will often see reporters using in news stories. A PC-I is for small projects of under one million rupees for which preparatory studies are not needed. A PC-II is for larger projects which need huge amounts of money. PC-IIs are supposed to provide a full justification for taking on the project (dam, canal) before the government dedicates large amounts of money to it. (Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly defined PCs as Project Cycle.)

A PC-II can only be made by the government. It is a wishlist that goes to the consultant or contracted company that will do the building. PC-IIs are roadmaps. 

This is the kind of document the Karachi Water and Sewage Board put together when it decided that it needed to see how practical or feasible it was to expand its water supply to the city. It had to be approved by the government. As KW&SB wasn’t strong enough to undertake the project itself, it had to hire outside experts, consultants, to study different routes that could bring water to Karachi. 

While it makes for dry reading, the slim PC-II volume provides an education on the history of Karachi’s water needs and how the engineers at the water board understood the city. It specified exactly what they wanted the consultant to study as well.

The work on this plan began in 2002. By 2003 the water board’s PC-II was sent to the Planning Commission in Islamabad. The document had a lengthy but specific title: Feasibility study for future alternate route of bulk water supply and long term expansion of Karachi water supply system from Kinjhar lake (including usage of Hadero and Haleji Lakes). [Stage 2]

For what it is worth, it seemed to be prepared by men who knew what they were doing. They were:

They wanted K-IV because the supplies needed to expand with the growing population. It has used up its 650mgd or 1,200 cusecs quota from the Indus river and would need the government to approve drawing another 1,200 cusecs or 650mgd (it is beyond the scope of this story to go into the negotiations with IRSA on Karachi getting more water but suffice it to say that these plans were made without even considering if Karachi would get the extra water in the first place that it could put through K-IV)

Karachi gets its water from the nearby Kinjhar Lake in Thatta. The lake is filled by the waters of the River Indus. The mechanism that brings Kinjhar’s water to Karachi was called the Greater Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme (or K-I).

It works like this: The water from Kinjhar Lake flows through an open canal to Dhabeji pumping station from where it is pumped up to a point called Forebay from where water flows by gravity to Pipri filter plant, the North East Karachi pumping station, COD filter plant and the old NEK filter plant. It is them supplied to Orangi, Baldia, SITE, New Karachi, Nazimabad and the new filter plant next to NEK supplies the Karachi University reservoir to the trunk main lines for Karachi city (Gulshan etc.)

K-II came in 1998 with 100 million more gallons per day, followed by K-III which was completed by 2005. By the time K-III is done, said the water board engineers, Karachi’s population would have grown. They did some math and projected that they would need to plan to add more water supplies from Kinjhar in the future. A K-IV would be needed. And since all the bulk water supplies (K-I, II and III) went to Dhabeji, they wanted K-IV to go to another point.

The engineers at the water board were also nervous that Karachi’s entire water mechanism relied on Dhabeji pumping station, which was vulnerable. Another route had to be mapped out. They were also interested in seeing if two smaller lakes after Kinjhar, Haleji and Hadero, could be included in any new water supply. These lakes could be backup storage if something went wrong with Kinjhar or the main system had to be closed for cleaning. They wanted a consultant to study the land and see what the most economic route was. 

If you want to transport water to a city, you have to put it in something that carries it. That could be a big pipe or a canal. This is not the only hardware you will need. The water that comes out of Kinjhar Lake flows by gravity in K-III for a certain distance as it heads to Karachi but at Dhabeji it needs to be pumped up into the rest of the system. A K-IV on a new route would also need this kind of help. It would need pumping stations. The pumping stations run on electricity and so you also have to set up power plants. You need staff to run the pumping stations, and so you need to build staff colonies because the pumping stations are in isolated spots.

If you are digging a canal from Kinjhar to Karachi, you have to make sure you own the land. So land had to be acquired for K-IV. 

Of course, once you decide on a new route and lay a new pipeline and bring in water to the city, you have to connect it to the existing KWSB grid or network of pipelines. The fancy engineering word for that is “augmentation” or making something bigger by expanding it.  

The raw water needs to be stored and filtered before it is sent to Karachi. So K-IV also needs three reservoirs or storage lagoons (see R1, R2, R3 on the map) along with FPs or filter plants.

In technical terms this was all called civil works (the digging or earthwork), land acquisition, ancillary works (bridges, staff colonies), the energy project (power plant for pumping stations) and augmentation (connecting it to the existing KWSB network). 

So the KW&SB’s wishlist specified that it wanted a consultant to study a new route, study the land (topography), test the soil, see if the existing system if it can be expanded and used, and study “augmentation” or connecting to the current pipelines in the city.  

The KWSB estimated that if they asked a consultant to go out there and study an alternate route for a new line from Kinjhar Lake to Karachi, the survey alone would take roughly Rs33 million and three years to do. The job should be done by 2005. This was what it thought in the year 2002.

Seventeen years went by.
We are writing this in 2019.

A slight detour in the story is merited here. It is a confession of sorts, an explanation of why this story exists and what you can expect to happen from here onwards if you have come this far. 

Roughly five months later, we find ourselves here. We bring you what we learnt. A word of caution: we are not a government inquiry but we share the findings of several investigations by the government and independent experts which all overlap in their conclusions. There are many things that we still do not know about K-IV and its story is not over yet. 

What we have attempted to do, however, is explain as much of what we could understand. It has been a difficult task to decide just how much detail an average reader needs. This knowledge was put together from official and internal documents and multiple background interviews with men on the project. No one wanted to go on the record for the juicy bits and this was very telling for us.
We believe that everyone we spoke to lied to us at some level—that kind of deception that comes from failing to mention something and leading the reporter down another garden path. This is, of course, fairly normal when you go interview such people. They were also each helpful in piecing together a picture of K-IV when they were honest. Despite this, we believe that the official documents tell enough of a story for anyone to know what happened. We believe that readers who care about what Karachi’s water supply will be like in the next 50 years will be able to decide for themselves.

To read the next article in the series on Karachi’s K-IV water project, click on the image below

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