KARACHI - Following the recommendations of elected body of Sindh Assembly, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board has forwarded a proposal to the Sindh chief minister and sought approval for enhancing the sentence term to ten years against water theft and those involved in illegal business of water hydrants, officials told TheNation on Saturday.

A senior official said that the though the KWSB had sent the proposal about six months back, yet is still lying at the table of the chief executive of the province for his approval. KWSB MD Misbahuddin Ahmed confirmed that a proposal has been sent to the chief minister for his approval, hoping that the proposal for new law to take action on water thefts would be approved soon.

Meanwhile, a senior official pointed out that the Board had started a campaign of dismantling illegal water hydrants in the city, under which it lodged FIRs against the people involved in the water theft and confiscated equipment, machinery, generators, water tankers and other goods. But all those who were booked in water theft crime and they easily got bails from lower courts, besides all the seized equipment were also released on the orders of the lower courts due to lacunas in the existing law, he said, adding even all the disconnected illegal water hydrants have resumed their operation.

The Sindh Assembly’s Standing Committee on Local Government in its report submitted in the assembly recently has also recommendation severe punishment against those involved in the water theft through illegal hydrants or other means.

The assembly’s body also said that the existing law allows the people to continue illegal trade, which deprives the suburbs and slums areas of the city from their right of potable water.

To eliminate the flaws in the system, the Board proposed introducing amendments in the KWSB Act like declaring the puncturing of its water lines as well as setting up illegal water hydrants as non-bailable offence involving a sentence of up to 10 years, a senior official of KWSB confirmed to TheNation. He said that this proposal has been pending for the last six months before the Sindh’s chief executive for his approval, as the KWSB proposed that this matter should be expedited.

According to a report of the Board, it has lodged over 132 FIRs on account of water theft during the last five years but not a single suspect was arrested by the police.

Underlining the importance of the amendments to the KWSB Act, the officials of the Board said it was necessary to make water theft a non-bailable offence as several suspects nominated in the FIRs got released on bail.

Officials of KWSB opined that the illegal water hydrant mafia continued to challenge the writ of the government and encroached upon the KWSB’s water trunk main network by setting up illegal hydrants particularly in the areas where water demand was potentially high.

A KWSB senior official further said that a strong mafia was involved in setting up each and every illegal water hydrant was currently operating in eight different areas in the metropolis.

Other than water thefts through illegal hydrants, the water theft mafia steal the boring pumps, which catches the water from the KWSB’s pump stations. After taking illegal connection from KWSB’s water trunk mains, this boring mafia pumps water to a large number of industries.

It may be noted that the Supreme Court in its verdict in its suo moto case on Karachi unrest and targeted killings, the illegal water hydrants were also declared as one of the reason for deteriorating law and order situation in economic capital of the country and directed the government to immediately dismantle the illegal water hydrants in the City.

According to the KWSB, it carried out campaigns, disconnecting around 15 illegal water connections so far. But, subsequently these illegal water connections were once again reconnected with the KWSB system due to lack of severe punishment in the existing law. The KWSB officials believe that the main reason behind the failure of several disconnection campaigns was the lack of an effective law to deal with such cases.