Declining Quality Of Drinking Water In Karachi

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age, after pneumonia. It is responsible for an estimated 1.7 billion cases of diarrhea, or on average 2.9 episodes/child/year, and an estimated 1.87 million deaths among children under 5 years of age. The highest burden of disease is in children in the age range of 6–11 months: 4.5 episodes/child/year. It is a global level issue which has direct consequential effects on the human life. Around 50,000 people die each day in the world due to water-borne and water related diseases. Diarrheal diseases alone caused by water are responsible for around 2 million deaths each year. Up to 350,000 children die of diarrhea every year before reaching their 5th birthday in five countries, Pakistan being one of them.

One of the major causes for diarrhea is the presence of dangerous bacteria and infections in contaminated water utilized for household chores and sanitation, especially the water used for drinking purposes. Drinking water containing heavy metals and human waste (through sewage, septic tanks and latrines) can be very dangerous and can result in extreme cases of diarrhea which leads to malnutrition, infection and consequently in very severe cases: death.

Poor management of sewage and waste, under-resourced filtration services and lack of water resources play pivotal role in the declining state of drinking water in Pakistan, specifically in Karachi. As a consequence, 80% of all illnesses and 40% of deaths in Pakistan are caused by waterborne diseases. Diarrheal diseases are now in the list of top 10 contributors for deaths Pakistan. Even though access to safe and affordable water by 2030 is one of the Sustainable Development Goals of Pakistan, it still ranks number 9 in the list of top 10 countries with lowest access to clean water.

Distribution and demands of water supply

  • Political: In Karachi, mostly the Water and Sanitation Board (KWSB), the organization responsible for production, transmission, and distribution of the city’s potable water, as well as managing the sewerage system, is blamed for the disrupted supply. In response, the board blames the runaway population, and aging and leaky pipelines and water thieves for the shortage. As apparent, the overall scale of operation and level of service of the KWSB is well below the desired level. This has many reasons. Low level of tariffs, poor recovery of dues, political interference, obsolete technologies and overstaffing are some of the common ailments. Despite the loans and technical assistance received from donoragencies, the situation did not improve.
  • Economic: The total water demand stands at 665 mgd as per 1998 estimates whereas the actual amount received is 388 mgd. Indus- Kalri provides 263 mgd of water, facilitated through a comprehensive network of conduits and pumping stations. Karachi receives 20mgd from Haleji lake source; 100 mgd from Dumlottee wells and 100 mgd from Hub River.
  • Social: Settlements located at the tail end of the network receive a very low level of service since a great deal of designated water quantity is already taken away, legally or illegally and the tankers provide unfit water for domestic consumption its prices are relatively low compared to those supplying fresh water from KWSB hydrants. Some measures at the local level has been taken to improve the water provision conditions such as the Awami (People’s) tanks which were developed as a response to acute water shortage in the remote locations in Orangi Town, Karachi.
  • Environmental: According to a news report by Dawn in 2010, the fact was well established that the water source of Karachi’s drinking water – Indus, maybe devoid from conventional bacteria and pollutants after the treatment but the water is still loaded from heavy metals including arsenic and deadly chemicals. These metals are found widely in the earth’s crust and are non-biodegradable in nature. A small number have an essential role in the metabolism of humans and animals in very trace amounts but their higher concentration may cause toxicity and health hazards. Pathogens present in drinking water including many viral, bacterial and protozoan agents cause 2.5 million deaths from endemic diarrheal disease each year.

Untreated domestic sewage from the households in Kotri and Jamshoro, and effluents from nearly 100 industries set up in the area flows directly to the Kalri-Baghar (KB) Feeder canal, which is the main source of water for Keenjhar Lake. The treatment plant at SITE, which was set up by the industries located in the area, started operations last week. However, the plant’s biological and chemical tanks developed leaks on the first day and have yet to be fixed.

11 February 2020
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