Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Karachi water, Kalabagh and Desalination

Currently Karachi has two main sources of water supply - Darya e Sindh (Indus), some 140 miles away, and Hub dam about 40 km from the city. Hub Dam water is relatively small and dependent on rains. About one-and-a-half years back, it had no drop of water due scarcity of rains. Accordingly, the main source of water for Karachi is Darya e Sindh.Those of you who have visited Kotri Barrage and Almanzar restaurant will remember that there are several canals coming out of Darya e Sindh. In many months of the year, you will notice that all canals are dry except one. That one open canal is taking water about 140 miles to Karachi through a storage lake and treatment plants. That canal is the main source of Karachi water.As of now, the water for Karachi is gauranteed-- whether there is water for other towns of Sindh below Kotri or not. This year, I expect the water situation for whole Sindh to be relatively good because of large snow falls and rains upstream. However, in times of future droughts or dry conditions say for example due to construction of Kalabagh, new canals or other water projects upstream, water for Karachi is likely to become less gauranteed. People of other towns below Kotri may resist gauranteed supply of water to Karachi if they do not have drinking water for themselves. In addition, population and water needs of Karachi are continually increasing. Accordingly, in order to gaurantee water for themselves, people of Karachi must ensure that othr people between Kotri and Karachi are not thirsty-- otherwise, they could threaten Karachi's supply.Karachi is also wisely looking for additional alternate sources of water. Desalination is obviously one important option. However, it is a very expensive option. In layman's terms, desalination means that one needs to boil sea water, collect steam, cool it and then distribute it. Given, high cost of electricity and other energy in Pakistan (as compared to Saudi arabia of Dubai), the affordability of desalinated water has always been in question. Price per gallon of desalinated water in Karachi is likely to be many times that is currently paid.Nevertheless, recently, there has been some progress. As reported in DAWN, a preliminary agreement for the installation of two desalination plants, having a capacity of 25mgd each, one at Korangi and the other at Bin Qasim, was signed here on Monday March 28, 2005.Brig Iftikhar Ahmed, MD of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, and Mr Samiullah Khan, head of the California-Enviro Management Inc. USA, signed the agreement at a ceremony held at a local hotel. US Consul-General at Karachi, Douglas C. Rohn, and the City Nazim, Niamatullah Khan, counter-signed the agreement.Addressing the ceremony, City Nazim Niamatullah Khan said that the ceremony follows signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in October last year. He said that water is life and in future, wars will be fought not for land but for water.Niamatullah Khan said that he had been discussing the possibility of desalination plants with many companies, but the same could not materialise till Mr Samiullah Khan offered the installation of two desalination plants of 25 mgd each on Built, Own and Operate basis. This will meet only a small part of Karachi's water needs but it will be an additional source of water.According to the plans, the desalinated water will be supplied to industries and affluent people who can afford to buy and thus the 50 mgd water so saved will be supplied to city's deficit areas by the year 2007. This would be a good way to get around the high cost of desalinated water. However, given past tendencies of industrialists and affluent people, they will probably bribe the water company staff and secure cheaper water for themselves. Sooner or later, common people of Karachi will be paying for the desalinated water.Clear option for people of Karachi is to make sure that there is enough water in Darya e Sindh (Indus) so that all people below Kotri can get enough cheap water.Ali Nawaz MemonSindh Development Institute7204 Antares DriveGaithersburg, Maryland, USA 20879


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