2017 Shows Little Sign Of An End To Karachi’s Water Crisis

Via Future Directions International, a report on Pakistan’s water stress, particularly on its largest city – Karachi:

Karachi’s water supply comes mainly from two sources: the Keenjhar Lake, 120 kilometres northwest of Karachi, and the Hub Dam, 60 kilometres northwest. Years of on-going drought have left Pakistan’s largest city as the sixth most water-stressed city in the world. In an era of climate change and drought, a large influx of migrants and refugees in recent years has added to Karachi’s already-stressed water supply.


Pakistan’s urban population is expected to grow by more than 100 million people over the next few decades, increasing from 75 million in 2016 to 178 million by 2050. In Karachi, the population is expected to increase from 20 million people to over 50 million people during the same period. In a city that is already facing serious water shortages, the consequences of this rapid rate of urbanisation are likely to be profound. Between 2005 and 2015, the daily demand for water doubled from 2.8 gigalitres to 4.3 gigalitres while the supply of water was only able to meet half of this demand.

In 2015, FDI noted that poor infrastructure and weak governance has played a role in Karachi’s dire water supply. Due to poor maintenance of key water-transporting machinery and infrastructure, limited rainfall and pilfering, the supply of these water sources to Karachi is significantly below demand. Karachi’s “water tanker mafia” has been responsible for illegally puncturing pipelines and siphoning water to sell at inflated prices. Corruption of government officials in the regulation of this practice has not aided the city’s water woes. There are often human corpses and animal carcasses polluting the limited sources of potable water, such as Keenjhar Lake or the canals that transport water around the city.

The Pakistani Government has been in a long-running process to secure a National Water Policy (NWP) that, if implemented, would have seen water sharing between Pakistani provinces. A draft for the plan was originally prepared in 2005, yet the implementation of the NWP has been fraught with barriers. In June 2016, the federal government announced that the implementation of the policy would be put on hold because of “constitutional inconsistencies”. Developing a water-sharing policy has now been delegated to provincial governments. For Karachi, the shelving of the government’s NWP means further delays to water-sharing while provincial governments negotiate a new agreement. As the NWP took over ten years to formulate, it is unlikely that Karachi’s citizens will be able to rely on a new regional agreement to secure water in the short-term.

The Greater Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme, or K-4 as it is also known, commenced at the end of 2015. The K-4 seeks to develop a new water pipeline from the Keenjhar Lake to Karachi, and will be fed by the Indus River. The project is scheduled to be complete by November 2018; however, by the time the project is due to be finished, it is unlikely that the creation of the pipeline will sufficiently meet demand from Karachi’s rapidly expanding population. If both the local and Pakistani governments can meet the expense, a desalination plant may be an alternative option for the water-stressed city.

Frustrated with the worsening water scarcity, unrest has broken out in some areas of Karachi with protesters calling for greater government action. Without an alternative supply of water or stricter regulations against the black market and a reduction of corrupt practices by government officials, civil unrest within the city is likely to grow. The city will also experience greater threats to public health, particularly due to dehydration, heatstroke and hygiene-related disease. Over the next few decades, Pakistan is likely to become the most water-stressed country in the region. It is crucial that the Karachi Government take action to reduce the effects of an already dire situation.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 at 6:14 am and is filed under Pakistan.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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