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Karachi’s water tanker mafia


THE winter season is on and the country has reportedly no dearth of water. Not for Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and its financial juggernaut. The people of the hapless metropolis, true to form, are suffering, just as they do in summer, despite the fact the city received more than the expected rainfall during the monsoon last year. They are, both literally and figuratively, yearning for drops of water even when their tanks should have been flushed with a necessity as rudimentary as this.

So, what exactly is the reason behind this artificial paucity of water? Tanker mafia—an unfortunate reality in a city that contributes the lion’s share in the country’s GDP, and is the sole driver of the country’s economy.

Nevertheless, despite the recent exposé of a well-known English-language daily about the transgressions of the racket, both uniformed and otherwise, that has been lining the citizens’ pockets from time immemorial, the silence of the Sindh government over the burning issue is telling. At the end of the day, the provincial government is primarily to blame as it has financial and administrative control of the Karachi Water & Sewerage Board.

The authorities, however, seem unmoved as serving the teeming millions of this megapolis has never figured into their priority list. Otherwise, the astonishing levels of graft and malpractice that the investigative report divulged in the rank and file of the KWSB would have prompted them into action.

However, the Sindh government appears least bothered to clean up the mess, choosing instead to keep tightlipped until the news becomes stale so that the system that works to serve a privileged few at the cost of millions can remain the same.

Water was previously delivered through tankers in order to reach remote locations without water pipelines or those that were particularly hard-hit during dry spells. Various parties fighting over the city’s resources fueled an informal industry in land and water as Karachi fell into political turmoil.

Hydrant activities were highly politicized and were largely addressed by increasing tanker prices. This cartel was capable of keeping the megacity captive for days at a time. Given Karachi’s population, there is undoubtedly a lack of drinkable water, yet even after years of record rainfall, like the one experienced last year, the city’s water quota remains the same because its dated infrastructure is unable to handle greater volumes.

Simply put, it suits select groups of individuals not to improve KWSB pipelines, or push for higher recovery of its receivables, or pull apart illegal hydrants, or penalize those accused of wrongdoing rather than letting them continue in higher places. These quarters would not be served by an equitable shared water supply at reasonable rates.

The media has a responsibility to inform the public and keep the government accountable. But nothing can be done when those elected to represent the public show such shameful indifference.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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