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Pakistan tries to overcome water shortage
Residents turn to alternate water sources, like wells in the back yard
By Sohail Ahmed
ISLAMABAD – The ongoing water shortage in Islamabad is making real estate agent Inam Khan’s job a challenge during the holy month of Ramadan.
Khan, 30, is struggling to find tenants who are willing to rent houses without water wells.
“There was a time when tenants used to negotiate over rents, but now they ask first for a house with a well,” he told Central Asia Online.
In almost all the capital’s wealthy neighbourhoods, scarcity is forcing dwellers to drill wells in their yards.
“The problem here is not even resolved as most of the landlords who are installing a water bore at their respective houses demand increased rents,” said Zameen Khan, another property dealer.
Formerly, renters in wealthy sectors like G-8, G-10, I-9 and I-10 could rent a 130-sq.-m. house without a well for Rs. 20,000 to 25,000 (US $211 to $264) per month, he said. The same house with a well costs Rs. 30,000 to 35,000 (US $317 to $370) per month to offset the Rs. 80,000 to 90,000 (US $845 to $951) cost of drilling 54m to 60m.
“I have no option but to rely on a water bore as the supply of public water is depleting day by day,” said Abid Abbassi, a house owner in Sector G-8.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has adopted a two-pronged strategy to overcome the problem, short and long term: water tankers and additional water sources.
CDA drive for provision of water
“At present, Islamabad requires 200m gallon of water (per day), but we are providing 62m gallons of water with 40% leakage,” said Sanaullah Aman, director general of the CDA Water Management Wing.
The main reason for the water shortage is unscheduled electrical outages (load shedding) on the express feeder that runs 22 tube wells meant to supply I-9 and I-10, he said. The feeder was installed on the directive of former CDA chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi to meet growing demand, he said, but the Islamabad Electricity Supply Company (IESCO) has failed to maintain a steady supply of power to the feeder, Aman contended.
IESCO declined to comment on the situation.
The CDA’s short-term relief strategy is to run water tankers in Islamabad, he said. However, they charge consumers Rs. 100 (US $1) per trip.
The CDA also has set up two complaint centres.
Currently, the main sources of water are the Simly Dam Reservoir, which provides 27m gallons of water daily, and the Khanpur Dam, which provides another 9m gallons a day.
For the long term, the CDA plans to obtain water from the Indus River near Ghazi Barotha, which will provide 100m gallons of water per day in the first phase, he said. The CDA has found international funding for this matter, he said.
“Water consumption increases many-fold during the hot summer months, but lavish use of water ... is another major reason of water shortage,” Aman told Central Asia Online.
The CDA, to conserve water, has disconnected 480 illegal connections and 125 water-dredging motors that were installed in various place, he said, adding the enforcement wing is acting against illegal connections at farms and hotels along Murree Road, Bhara Kahu, and in surrounding areas.
The Ministry of Water and Power said it is doing its part. “The tornado (July 29 in Muzaffargarh) has damaged a 220kW system at local generation, while another 500kW system got damaged on the National Grid Station in the District,” Tanvir Alam, ministry spokesman, told Central Asia Online about power outages in the country and particularly in Islamabad.
Workers have restored the generation of 1,500MW and are striving to restore the whole system, he said.
Load shedding increased because of technical problems at the Chashma nuclear power plant, which ordinarily produces 560MW of electricity, he said. However, workers have repaired one plant at the Chashma 1 Grid Station and are repairing the second one, he added.
A future without enough water?
Pakistan has an estimated population of 187m with an annual growth rate of 1.57%, according to a study by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR).
It’s expected to double in population and to be 63.7% urban by 2050. It was an estimated 36% urban in 2010, according to published estimates.
The coming spikes in population and urbanisation will stress Pakistani ability to supply water for households, industry and agriculture.
The lack of potable water and poor sanitation are associated with a number of illnesses, and water-borne diseases kill an estimated 250,000 children per year in Pakistan, the PCRWR study said.
“Keeping in view the deteriorating water quality situation, (in 2002) the PCRWR initiated water quality assessment and management programmes for the first time in Pakistan,” Lubna Naheed Bukhari, PCRWR spokeswoman, told Central Asia Online.