Water shortages
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When one thinks of water shortages, the city that comes to mind is Karachi which is notorious for its year round water crisis. However, the bane of water shortages has enveloped the capital city as well.

 

Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif claimed in March that there was no water shortage anywhere in the country. This blatant denial of reality from those responsible adds to the plight of the general public and pressures upon the system.

In March, Khawaja Asif, Minister of Water & Power, created a stir by his overly optimistic statement, that “there is no water shortage any where in Pakistan”. Apparently Minister is not aware that many sectors even inside Islamabad have not received any piped water for more than a year. Denizens of sectors I and G are forced to stand in queues outside CDA offices to receive meagre amounts of water through tanker supply.

Citizens of Islamabad are perceived across the country as privileged and thus secure from the pestilence of mismanagement due to their city’s status as the power center. This is not true any more; water shortages in Islamabad are not a sudden development; crisis is developing over the past several years without any strategy by CDA or federal government to counter the growing crisis.

Except for the one or two exclusive sectors which are home to the influential diplomatic and government cadre, the rest of the city has been subject to a debilitating water crisis. The ‘G’ and ‘I’ sectors have been especially hard hit. Even parts of F sectors, running parallel to Margalla road suffer from shortages. There are streets in F-8 that have not received any water from CDA over the past several years – forcing residents to pump ground water at huge costs of electricity and resulting in the gradual lowering of water table.

Read More: Why Pakistan’s feudal class is not worried about the water crisis?

Islamabad draws its water supply from 7 primary sources. These include the water works: Korang, Shahdra, Saidpur, and Noorpur; 150 tube wells; the Simly Dam and Poona Faqiran.

Usually, Islamabad would face water shortages in the intense summer months, however, this time the shortage reached its severity during winter time.Currently, Sectors ‘G’ and ‘I’ neither have piped water nor are the hydraulic pumps in the area providing any as the water table has sunk below 300 feet.

Residents are either forced to buy water from private water tanker contractors, which cost above Rs.2000, or reportedly, have to go to Capital Development Authority (CDA) offices to request portions of tanker supply – like it started in Karachi. Lines start to build outside the CDA building at 4am in the morning, where citizens stand to deposit Rs. 100/- for supply of a portion (around 20% of a tanker) of CDA water tanker later in the day. This limited amount of water is barely sufficient for basic needs like cooking and washing. CDA’s ability to meet even these needs may run out soon, unless government comes up with something more sustainable in terms of a solution.

In 2004, the federal cabinet had decided to implement a strategy to cater to the rising needs of the capital. The focus was thus set on two major water sources: the Indus River from Tarbela Dam and the Jhelum River from Mangla Dam. 

Islamabad draws its water supply from 7 primary sources. These include the water works: Korang, Shahdra, Saidpur, and Noorpur; 150 tube wells; the Simly Dam and Poona Faqiran. The combined production of all 7 of these sources is approximately 84 million gallons per day (mgd) whereas the minimum requirement of the capital is 105 mgd. Previously, the shortfall of around 40-50 mgd during the summer season and pre-monsoon months was managed by rationing water supplies. But this year, the shortages seem to have hit much earlier during the winter season, placing the authorities in a fix.

Due to the mismanagement and lack of foresight of the federal government regarding the supply of water, the increase in population experienced in Islamabad and ongoing development on the fringes of the city have resulted in an exponential decline in the availability of water, access to which is the fundamental right of every citizen.

The crisis of the water supply situation is such that officials now believe it is the single greatest impediment to the development of residential sectors in the capital.

While the city’s administration has been struggling to meet the current demand for water, simultaneously the population of the capital has been increasing at a rate of over five per cent per year to 1.75 million today, therefore increasing the demand for water every year.

Despite these glaring failures of the government, Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif claimed in March that there was no water shortage anywhere in the country.

This increased population and its resulting demand adds to the water supply burden of the capital and hence adding to delays in opening new residential sectors to house the grown population.

Read More: Majority of Pakistanis forced to consume contaminated water

Despite these glaring failures of the government, Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif claimed in March that there was no water shortage anywhere in the country. This blatant denial of reality from those responsible adds to the plight of the general public and pressures upon the system. It is important to address the Water crisis before it assumes “political proportions” across different parts of Pakistan.

In 2004, the federal cabinet had decided to implement a strategy to cater to the rising needs of the capital. The focus was thus set on two major water sources: the Indus River from Tarbela Dam and the Jhelum River from Mangla Dam. The CDA then proceeded to task MM Pakistan and Mott McDonald (UK) in 2005 to come up with case studies for a solution.

The results of these studies indicated that siphoning water from Tarbela lake would be the optimal choice to meet the current demand in addition to meeting any future requirements of the twin cities. However, the project requires $1.2 billion to implement which has yet to be allocated.

But the growing extent of water crisis means that government has now to come up with more innovative and out of box strategies to address the challenge of water scarcity.

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