Pakistan People’s Party had promised in its 2013 manifesto to provide clean drinking water to every citizen.
The Sindh government has been on the crosshair for not providing safe drinking water to the residents of Sindh. Karachi in particular has been the target of a water crisis. When things got out of hand, the Supreme Court (SC) had to intervene, on the petition of Advocate Shahab Usto, to find out the factual situation of water crises in the mega-city. The SC constituted a judicial commission to probe into allegations against the Sindh government about providing contaminated drinking water to the people and deteriorating sanitation conditions in the province.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim, asked the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) chief justice to nominate a serving high court judge to head the commission.
According to the petitioner, the North Sindh Urban Services Corporation (NSUSC) was formed to provide sustainable water supply, sewerage and solid waste services in a safe, efficient and effective manner in eight districts of upper Sindh – Sukkur, New Sukkur, Rohri, Khairpur, Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, and Ghotki. The corporation, however, failed to deliver despite a lapse of several years. The NSUSC was created with a loan of $500 million obtained from the Asian Development Bank, however, the organization had failed to provide drinking water to the public as a whole in upper and lower parts of the province. The subsoil water is contaminated and unfit for human consumption.
The commission was required to record its findings regarding providing supply of clean water to the residents of Sindh besides the deteriorating sanitary conditions. The commission also had to examine the statutory role played by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency on the issues mandated by the Sindh Environmental Protection Act 2014.
The finding of the report concluded that almost 84 per cent of Sindh’s residents had no access to safe drinking water. “At that point in time,” according to the report, “Sindh government’s financial outline for various water and sanitation schemes was Rs 28.5 billion.” The bottom line, identified by the commission, was: “There is no dearth of initiative on the part of the government to devise systems for water supply and sanitation. These schemes often do not produce the necessary results due to shortcomings in their execution.”
It was also stated in the report that to find an out-of-the box solution to the issues, Sindh Cities Improvement Programme was initiated with the help of Asian Development Bank. An agreement of $400 million loan was signed between the Sindh government and the ADB. It was under this agreement that NSUSC was established. Due to interferences by the unconcerned departments and people, a detailed engineering document for the project could not be prepared, even by 2016.
Though Sindh could not bring about the out-of-box solution, a similar project has been implemented successfully in Peshawar.
The commission report also remarked that the filtration plants were useless if they had failed to provide clean water. Deputy MD Karachi Water Board had said that the places where the water lines were mixed with sewerage lines had been identified.
Truth Tracker got in touch with the minister of the Local Government and Housing Town Planning Sindh, Jam Khan Shoro who denied the claims that all was not well with water situation in Karachi. He said that Karachi was not being supplied with contaminated water and that all filtration plants were operating properly. He added that the Sindh government was striving hard to improve the water situation in the province. “There is no question of negligence, we are providing safe drinking water, which is tested at five filtration points in the laboratory before being supplied,” Shoro said.
Faisal Wada from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf told Truth Tracker that the water mafia in Karachi, partnered with law enforcement agencies, would never want Karachi to have a delivery system of safe drinking water to its people. “There are places in Karachi,” he said, “where water was almost nonexistent, and contaminated water is being supplied to the people. In both situations, people were forced to buy water from tankers. In Karachi, water is supplied in tankers and on carts.” “The supply of contaminated water to the slums was of no concern to the government,” Wada said. “In upscale areas such as DHA,” Wada informed Truth Tracker, “the residents are liable to pay a water tanker allowance, aside from the maintenance cost.” “It is just part of their grand scheme, now that purchasing water from tankers is encouraged, and from top to bottom, from the bureaucrats to the law enforcers, each cadre is a part of this crime,” Wada said.
Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi head, Hafiz Naeem Ur Rehman, told Truth Tracker that 80 per cent of the population in Karachi was forced to drink mixed sewerage water. “They use that very same water for cooking purposes,” he said. He further explained that the PPP and MQM were not concerned regarding the welfare of the people. “In fact,” he elaborated, “the entire tussle between the two parties was about who should get greater influence and power in the administration of the mega-city.” “The water filtration plants are either defunct, or barely functional with no maintenance,” Naeem said.
Owais Tauheed, Senior Analyst, told Truth Tracker that billions of rupees were appropriated in the name of water schemes, in which everyone was involved and to say that the Sindh government is unable to solve the water crisis in Karachi is utterly wrong. “The government, including the law enforcement agencies, do not want Karachi to get a clean, safe and uninterrupted supply of water,” Tauheed said.
“Haphazard urbanization in Karachi has added to the misery of the city’s infrastructure, which has not been revamped over the past 30 years. Nearly 50 per cent of the people in Karachi live in slums, where the living conditions are abysmal, and amenities such as the quality of water is unsuitable for human consumption.”
From the discourse above, it is evident that the Sindh government, run by the PPP, has failed to provide safe drinking water to its people. Although the Sindh government is in a state of denial, the SC report and the general agreement regarding Sindh government’s bad governance hardly substantiates PPP’s justifications.