The Pakistan Peoples Party had promised during 2013 election campaign that once in power it would provide clean drinking water and ensure that the sewage system functions at the optimal level. Although PPP failed to win enough seats to form a national government, we have tracked this promise in Sindh where the party has been ruling more than eight years consecutively.
- Drinking Water
Water in both urban and rural towns of Sindh is unsafe to drink.
A study conducted in 2016 by School of Environmental Studies, China, titled “Evaluation of Water Quality for Drinking and Agricultural Suitability in the Lower Indus Plain in Sindh Province, Pakistan,” shows that the drinking water in most part of the Sindh is not suitable for drinking and is high in arsenic that causes skin diseases such as cancer.
According to Research Article titled “Contaminants Exposure and Impacts on Drinking Water of Johi Subdivision of Sindh, Pakistan, “In Sindh groundwater arsenic concentration has reached up to 1100 μg/l in the province of Sindh, which is much higher than World Health Organisation’s (WHO) limits of 10 μg/l.”
The result of 2011-12 and 2012-13, Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) Biennial Report reveals that the water contents in most part of Sindh has bacteriological contamination, resting at 68 per cent. Turbidity has been ‘major water quality concern,’ in Central Sindh. High turbidity means negative odor, blockage of UAV needed to disinfect the water by the sun, and finally it negates the effects of chlorination.
In another study carried out by United States Institute of Peace “Conflict Dynamics in Sindh,” only one in every ten persons in Sindh has access to safe drinking water.
The supply of polluted water is not only restricted to households. Recently Civil Hospital Karachi was reported using contaminated water. There was no water treatment plant in the hospital. The underground water reservoir of the hospital had not been cleaned for several months, because of which sewage got mixed in with water supply line.
- Sewage disposal
Noman Butt, a resident of Aysha Manzil in Karachi, told Truth Tracker that even when the District Municipal Corporation (DMC) came to clean the drains they left heaps of rubbish on the road, which was later thrown back in the drain by some other employees of the DMC.
The city’s major natural drains, including the Gujjar, Orangi, Sukhan and Thaddo nullahs (streams), carry its sewage to the sea every day. The sewage arrives into these nullahs from 18 smaller drains that span across the city.
According to government surveys made over the years the major issues confronting the drain management in Karachi is the encroachment of development and construction on the nullahs and drainage.
When Truth Tracker contacted minister for the Local Govt. and Housing Town Planning Sindh, Jam Khan Shoro, he said that Keenjhar lake water was not contaminated, and that all filtration plants were operating properly.
He further added that the Sindh government was working on improving the water situation in the province. “Water is being filtered at five places and is being tested by the laboratory before providing to the public, and there is no question of any negligence,” said Shoro.
Haleem Adil Sheikh for Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf told Truth Tracker that the claims of PPP about the functioning of water filter plants at Keenjhar Lake are false. He said that people are forced to drink water contaminated by human, animal and industrial waste thrown in the Keenjhar Lake. Sheikh runs his own NGO, Pakistan Relief Foundation, and has been carrying out studies on the issue of safe drinking water along with other issues of community interest.
He added that there were 65 industrial units in Kotri, the waste of all these flows into the KB feeder canal. These untreated effluents, he said, were supplied to rural areas where people used them for cultivation as well.
When Truth Tracker asked about the combined effluent treatment plant installed some three years ago at the Kalri Bhagar (KB) feeder canal, Shoro said that the plant has been made functional.
Water Technologist Dr. Ahsan Siddiqui told Truth Tracker that a combined effluent treatment plant at the KB feeder canal has been dysfunctional ever since it developed leakages.
“In 2010 the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the Sindh government to install combined effluent treatment plant at Kotri,” Sheikh said. “Following the order, a treatment plant was installed in Kotri in 2013 at the accumulated cost of Rs 94 crore. When the project started in 2010 its estimated cost was only Rs 74 crore, however due to the negligence of the Sindh government and delay in the completion of the project hiked the initial cost. But the interesting part is that the plant shut down the very next day of its operation because of cheap material and machinery used in the project.”
About this delay, Shoro agreed that the plant had been put in place behind the scheduled time.
Hafiz Naeem, Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami, told Truth Tracker that Sindh was the most backward province when it came to the availability of safe drinking water. He said that animals and human beings drink from the same source – ponds and lakes in the rural areas of Sindh. Because of lack of cleanliness, pumping stations had become source of waste, and the practice of mixing chlorine in water was stopped, he said.
“The water supply lines are broken, consequently, sewage water gets mixed in drinking water, causing innumerable waterborne diseases,” said Naeem.
Deputy Mayor of Karachi Dr. Arshad Vohra said the problem is deep rooted. “Established landmarks and buildings such as the Shaheen Complex, the Sindh Secretariat, and the Urdu Bazaar are all created on nullahs,” he claimed.
Jam Khan Shoro has said that most of the storm water drains in Karachi had been blocked due to illegal construction of katchi abadis (squatter settlements) on them, which was creating hurdles for drainage of rainwater in the city. However, he said that the government is working to end these encroachments.
Dr. Mirza Ali Azhar, General Secretary Pakistan Medical Association, said that deadly diseases are increasing in Karachi, and that if immediate measures were not taken to treat contaminated water, it would wreak havoc on residents’ health.
Speaking to Truth Tracker, Ansar Bruney, Chairman Ansar Burney Trust and a social worker, said that thousands of people were dying after drinking contaminated water and no one was paying attention to this issue. He said the government lacks the political will to eradicate the issue.
During its eight-year tenure, the PPP government has shown a lack of will to approach the issue of safe water and management of the sewage system for its people in Sindh. Their lukewarm measures have escalated multiple health challenges for residents of the province. This promise stands broken.