Every fortnight, a man comes to this dusty area in Pakistan’s commercial city of Karachi and bangs a stone on an electric pole signalling the start of water distribution by a charity.
It’s a welcome sound for the residents who come streaming out of their homes in Orangi Town, the largest planned shanty town in western Karachi, with blue canisters to collect the water.
“There has been no water in this area for the last 40 years. We get water either through tankers or we get some water from this charity,” says Mohammad Shakeel, 47.
He’s one of the millions of Karachi residents deprived of their share of clean drinking water supplied by the water authority to the megapolis.
The city has an unofficial population figure of 20 million and needs about 1200 Million Gallons per Day (MGD), but the city currently receives only about 580 MGD from its two water lifelines, the Indus River to the north and the Hub Dam that supplises the city’s district west. At least 15 percent of the water available in the official supply system is lost before it reaches the tap due to dilapitaded infrastructure and rampant water theft, according to rough estimates by officials.
“We have to buy three tankers every month. One tanker costs us around rupees 2,000 ($13). It means three tankers cost us 6,000 rupees ($39) per month. It is really a burden on my income,” said Zahid Mubin, another resident in Orangi. The average montly salary in Pakitan is around 550USD.
The situation has been exacerbated in recent years, as rivers in the country are losing large amounts of its flow because of climate change and dam constructions by its neighbour India, experts say.
Karachi had been pinning its hope on a major water supply project K-IV, involving building a vast network of pipelines to draw water from Keenjhar Lake, 130 kilometres away, through three water canals to the city, which was taken over by Federal government in 2020 after 18 years of delays and design faults under the provincial government.
But local media reported in January that the completion of the first phase of the “Fourth Additional Water Supply Project”, supposedly to happen in 2018, has been delayed until 2023.
(Production: Waseem Sattar, Shahabuddin Shahab, Phyllis Xu)