Qutbuddin Sheikh - AFTER air, water is the most essential thing for the survival of human beings. History tells us that all the ancient civilizations in the world began along the big rivers and so did the Indus valley civilisation. Karachi being the last and farthest riparian of river Indus is one of the few mega cities in the world located more than 100 miles away from the water source and is faced with immense problem in meeting up the water requirements of the fastest growing city of the country. Although it is a seashore and has the option of going for desalinated water but all the studies including Karachi Master Plan have concluded that desalinated water is financially not viable and the only viable water source for Karachi is river Indus.

Before coming towards the problems in managing water supply to the mega city it is essential to know something about the existing water supply system and the service provider.

Karachi is not only the largest city of Pakistan but also one of the most populated city of the world having an estimated population of more than 20 million spread over an area of 2787 Sq. Km. It is the industrial hub of the country and generates more than 70pc of the total revenue of the country.

The water supply network of Karachi is unique in the sense that unlike other major cities of the country which mostly supply groundwater, the main water source of Karachi is surface water located more than 100 miles away from the city. Water to Karachi is supplied from Kenjhar Lake which is fed by river Indus.

Karachi has a quota of 1200 cusec water from river Indus which is being almost fully utilised. The other source of water for Karachi which supplies only 100 MGD water is the Hub dam. This is not a very reliable source as it has a storage capacity for only three years and in case of no rains in its catchments area it goes dry. Nowadays water supply from the Hub Source has totally stopped as it has gone empty due to no rains in its catchments area.

Karachi Water and Sewerage Board is the agency responsible for the water supply and sewerage services to this mega city. Under KW&SB act 1996 the KW&SB is an autonomous body governed by a Board under the control of GoS.

KW&SB has a huge conveyance system comprising of canals, tunnels, siphons and huge pumping station located at Dhabeji as well as gigantic water purification plants.

On one hand KW&SB brings water to the city from a distant located source while on the other hand it is supplying piped water to its islands through HDPE waterline laid in the sea. Further, apart from the regular and developed areas KW&SB has to manage water supply to the illegal settlements including that on the hilltops of Orangi and adjoining areas through numerous pumping stations.

The problems related to water supply in Karachi are also as complex as is its distribution network.

Right from the beginning there has been a gap between the demand and supply of water in the city due to planning failure as the population growth rate of the city always surpassed the projected growth rate due to influx from the other parts of the country in this industrial hub of the country. The other reason for the widening gap between demand and supply is the delay in execution of the mega water supply projects.

Presently after shut down of supply from the Hub Dam Karachi is being supplied only 550 mgd water from the Indus source. The requirement of the city as per WHO standard @55 gallon per capita per day (GPCD) comes to s1100 mgd. So currently there is a short fall of more than 550 mgd. It means that Karachi is presently getting only 50pc of its total water requirement. The last addition of water to Karachi was made in the year 2005 through K-III project after which no further addition has been made whereas the population has increased by more than 45pc during this 9 years period. K-IV project phase 1 for bringing additional 260 mgd water to the city was to be launched in the year 2008 but it couldn’t be done as yet for various reasons. If this project is not started immediately it will result in great hue and cry in the city. Water shortage is also hampering the economic growth and the industrial activities in the city. This issue needs to be resolved on war footing basis, without further delay.

Karachi’s supply system is heavily overburdened due to unplanned and uncontrolled expansion of the city in all directions. There is no check on the expansion of the city. More than 40pc of the city’s population is residing in the illegal settlements which are increasing with the passage of time.

Like all water utilities of the country KW&SB is also facing financial problems. The financial recovery ratio is very poor as only 30pc of the registered 1.056 million registered consumers pay their monthly water bills. Majority of the people living in illegal settlements called Kachi Abadies do not pay their water bills.

Global warming is also a great threat to the water resources of the country. KW&SB has conducted climate change study with the help of WSP. The recommendations of the study need to be considered in the future water supply master plans of the city.

(The writer is Managing Director Karachi Water & Sewerage Board)