Irshad Salim — In most cities of Sindh– Pakistan’s second largest province population wise, the underground piped water supply system has become obsolete and dysfunctional due to decay and lack of proper maintenance over the years, says a report.
The report prepared by Sindh water commission points out that there are 414 places in the province, where drainage water is disposed into River Indus or its canals. It further states that people all over the province were not being provided drinking water in accordance with the parameters set by the World Health Organization (WHO) citing mismanagement, incompetence and negligence on part of authorities in ensuring the provision of safe drinking water to the people.
The commission was formed in December 2016 on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, comprising Sindh High Court judge.
The commission in its report — forwarded to the apex court, while underscoring the awful condition of water supply and sanitation in the province, has highlighted several factors compounding the situation.
It says declining institutional capacities of municipalities and line departments (to manage and maintain the systems), poor quality (mixed with arsenic and other impurities), lack of awareness to recognize water as a service with a cost factor associated with it, poor recovery of water bills, stress on the existing sources of water and swift changes in the institutional arrangements, have and are contributing to the worsening situation.
Almost half of the population of the province are urban dwellers — mainly in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Umerkot and Larkana. The status of water supply, sanitation and hygiene in these cities is below satisfactory level, with Karachi –capital of Sindh and Pakistan’s financial capital, being the worst hit, the report adds.
According to Dr Noman Ahmed, Professor and Chairman Department of Architecture and Planning NED University, Karachi, “massive water leakages all across Karachi, aging infrastructure and unprecedented physical development are main reasons,” while water theft is an organized enterprise in the megacity — “over 35 percent.”
According to the report, the water supply system for these Sindh cities has been worsened by: Unplanned development of settlements and houses therein, absence of scientifically prepared master plans, encroachments on sewers and drains, poor sitting of market places, uneven street levels, defective construction practices, absence of public toilets, absence of waste water treatment facilities, poor status of solid waste management, menace of plastic bags, rise in livestock population inside urban centers, blocking of drains due to unchecked dumping of solid waste management, political interference in the working of line departments, absence of trained and manpower and lack of monitoring of schemes.
The report also notes that that people all over the province are not being provided safe drinking water in accordance with the World Health Organization’s standards.