Karachi, Pakistan’s largest and most populous city, is facing a frightening water crisis. Amid years of criticism raining on top of the city’s administration for resource mismanagement and corruption, the state is struggling to deliver water to its 24.3 million residents. According to the Guardian’s article on the Karachi water crisis, the city is only delivering on 50% of its total water requirements. It’s 24 million-person population requires about 1.1 billion gallons of water a day, however the city can only supply about 550 million gallons every day. To make matters more complex, the city’s growth rate continues on an upward trajectory at 4.5%, currently receiving almost a million newcomers every year, further distressing the water issue.
“We don’t even have enough water to wash up for prayer, do our laundry or wash our dishes” says Farzana Khatoun, a Pakistani woman currently affected by the water crisis. Citizens of the city are becoming increasingly impatient with the state’s administration, linking the water shortages with the newly elected governments. Mofiz Khan, a shopkeeper in a water depressed area of Karachi comments, “since this government came into power in 2013, we haven’t had water.” Although Khan has tried varied methods in obtaining a response, the government seems unresponsive to the needs and demands of the people.
Besides the most obvious problem – supply simply not meeting demands of an ever burgeoning population – mismanagement of the remaining water resources is greatly contributing to the water crisis in Karachi. Since the Hub Dam went dry earlier this year, the Indus River, which is over 120km away, has become the main source of water for many residents. However, the long transmission route, along with faulty piping persisting due to maintenance failure, a whopping 30 percent of the water supply is lost in route to its destination. Outdated and efficient water pumping stations – also neglected by the state’s government – exacerbate the problems even further for Karachi.
Water mafias are another contributing factor to Karachi’s water problems. Water mafias, who often exist with the help of government officials, puncture holes into major water pipes and siphon off water to later sell in the black market to populations the water was intended for, often distributed at inflated prices, making the lives of Karachi resident’s so much more difficult.
Civil unrest has already been erupting throughout the region as the problems turn from water crisis into a public health crisis. The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board is currently working on a 25.5 billion rupee project that should alleviate some of the stress currently pressing on Karachi’s water supply. The proposed project plans to draw water from the Keenjhar lake, providing the city with an additional 650 million gallons of water daily. The city also hopes to reroute lines to reduce leakages, as well as upgrading current water pump facilities.
However are other sustainable practices being used to alleviate the shortage? Will the problems of waste be properly addressed? Without sustainable practices that protect a limited water supply, problems will surely persist.
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