Tanker owners lock horns with Karachi Water and Sewerage Board over reduced piece of the pie after SC shuts down illegal water hydrants
The undocumented business of supplying water to the residents of the port city has lost attraction following increasing imbalance in the number of hydrants and the water carriers, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The tanker owners are in a fix following the closure of all the subsoil or illegal sweat water hydrants by Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KW&SB) on the directives of the Supreme Court. Owners of the water carriers are now in a state of clash with the KW&SB “to gain illegal benefits” amid closure of illegal water hydrants.
If you visit the KW&SB approved water hydrants, you’ll see hundreds of tankers parked there for days, sometimes for up to a week, waiting for their turn. The burden on existing hydrants increased manifold and there have been reports of brawls between the KW&SB staffers and tanker operators over filling the tankers.
Supplying water to the victims of water shortage had emerged as a very profitable business in the city. The profit associated with this business could be calculated from the fact that even edible oil carriers as well as carriers of petroleum products had made a foray into the business. An owner of a water carrier earned Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per day particularly in summer when water shortage in the city reached its peak.
In addition to the edible oil and petroleum products carriers, the tanker owners also added more water carriers in their fleet to earn more from the unsolved water crises.
“Supplying water is our family business. I saw my grandfather supplying water on donkey-carts. My father joined my grandfather and invested money to buy a truck for supplying water. When my father handed this business to me, I had only one tanker; today I have 50,” Irfan Dogar, a tanker owner, told this scribe.
The business of supplying water gained momentum at the end of 2008 and reached its peak during 2013, but it is now shrinking with each passing day,” Dogar added. “Implementing the SC orders, the provincial government has demolished hundreds of water hydrants and reduced it to 11 water hydrants in the city, which is facing water shortage of 600 MGD,” Dogar maintained.
“There are 8,000 water tankers in the city and it is nearly impossible to refill all the water carriers with the available hydrants,” Dogar claimed, maintaining that “it takes two or three days or even a week to get a tanker filled amid shortage of water hydrants”.
In contrast, Dogar claimed, the tanker owners used to get their carriers filled three times a day. “Supplying water is not a viable business anymore,” he said.
KARACHI’S WATER CRISIS:
The process of production, transmission and distribution of potable water this year is no different from the past years and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) has said that the city faces a shortfall of 600 million gallons per day (MGD) in 2016 as demand of the utility rose to 1242 MGD, with estimated increase of 100 MGD over the year. Currently the board is drawing 650 MGD water from River Indus and Hub Dam, the two available sources.
The situation is expected to worsen following the Supreme Court (SC) orders to the local government secretary and KWSB Managing Director (MD) Misbahud Din Fareed in December 2015 to stop supply of subsoil water to industries. The apex court directed the two officials to formulate a policy in two weeks to end persisting water crisis in the metropolis.
Closure of subsoil water hydrants supplying water to industries has deepened the crises. Now, the owners of the industries have a contract with the subsoil water hydrant operator in Sakraan, Balochistan and the water carriers are bringing water from there for industrial use. The quality of subsoil water brought from Sakraan was tested in the laboratory and declared harmful for health.
As it is nearly impossible to meet the demand of 1242 MGD with total supply of 650 MGD, the board has decided to increase the interval between supply of water. In some areas, KWSB is supplying water every other day. But with the shortage continuing to increase, the board may have to increase the interval to two or three days. The residents, who are getting water twice a week, will now get water only once a week.
KW&SB AND TANKER OWNERS LOCK HORNS:
In less than three months, the tanker owners have called two city-wide strikes and parked their vehicles outside the KW&SB to protest over the unequal distribution of water at the available hydrants. The protesting tanker owners claimed that the KW&SB is renewing tenders of existing contractors against bribes of billions of rupees. They contractors, they allege are involved in unequal distribution of water and are generating millions in illegal revenue daily.
The tanker owners have demanded of the water board to issue a tender and invite bidding to end the monopoly of the contractors. They also demand a fare distribution of water amongst the tanker owners.
KW&SB Hydrant In-charge Tabish Raza claimed that tanker owners are trying to avail undue benefits amid shortage of water in the city. He claimed that the tanker owners are demanding to fill their water carrier’s everyday which is nearly impossible.
“Following the directives of the SC, KW&SB has demolished all the illegal sweat or subsoil water hydrants,” Raza claimed, adding, “I have myself demolished over 150 illegal water hydrants since December 2015.”
Raza claimed that when KW&SB demolished all the illegal water hydrants, the tanker owners set up their own subsoil water hydrants to run their business, but when action was taken against them, they started blackmailing the government.
“The provincial government didn’t advise the suppliers of edible oil and petroleum products to start supplying water and the government is not responsible if this business has lost attraction,” the hydrants in-charge maintained.