Editorial Written by me for Daily Balochistan Express on 18th August, 2018
The water woes of the three million population of Quetta are worsening with each passing day as the underground water level has further deepened to over 300 metres whereas the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) has failed in finding a practical solution to end this crisis in the foreseeable future.
According estimates of Wasa, Quetta requires some 200 million gallons of water daily to run routine affairs but it can only manage to provide 100 million gallons and the demand is increasing due to rapid surge in population.
As a result of this unchecked population growth of this very city and a corresponding lackluster response from the concerned quarters, half of the population’s requirements are not met. Wasa was operating 400 tube wells in Quetta which were insufficient to meet the requisite demand and Quetta requires some hundred tube wells for which the government was requested to provide financial resources.
It was shocking to know for the newsmen that the interim minister for Public Health and Engineering Mr. Naveed Kalmiti told the media persons during a press conference that as many as 117 tub-wells installed by the previous government were out of order despite severe water crisis in the city.
Whereas the tube-wells installed by the government remain conked out, the tube-wells run by the tanker mafia seem are well in place and functional. The government has to take serious steps to address the water crisis in the city. PHE minister also told the newsmen that some 10 tube-wells installed in Dasht, the adjacent Tehsil of district Mastung with provincial capital were being pumped to Quetta city to meet its water needs but still nothing on ground seems to have changed for good.
The previous government had also showcased an ambitious scheme of providing water to Quetta city from Pat Feeder Canal in 2016 and Kachhi canal through a 271-km long pipeline but that project too never saw the light of the day to provide relief to the people of this mismanaged city despite the fact that the total cost of the project was estimated at Rs40 billion (56 per cent of the then Public Sector Development Plan — Rs 71bn) and it was scheduled for completion in three years.
In the financial year 2016, Rs10bn were earmarked for feasibility report, mobilisation work, consultant fee and land acquisition but what progress was made on that project was never shared with media.
There are many reasons which account for the water crisis in Quetta. To elaborate, there seems no check over the water mining schemes within the city and growers are allowed to install as many tube-wells as they can afford at objectionable distances that can render the underground aquifers dry, either by greasing the palms of the relevant authorities or by defying their weak vigilance to this effect.
Moreover, the growers are also given faulty subsidies over the tube-wells and many of them are now involved in selling the water sucked from aquifers round the clock to mint as much money as they can.
Thirdly, the apple orchards which surround Quetta are also one of the causes as agriculture experts believe that this region is fit for growing dry fruit trees which comparatively consume lesser water than the apple trees which require much more water and exhaust the aquifers.
Last but not the least, the climate change and global, environmental disasters and patches of periodical droughts also play a negative role in making this city a water scarce city and perhaps a unlikeable city in the near future as warned by the former WAPDA chief.
Experts have warned that if dams are not built and ground water is not recharged as quickly as required, the province will turn into a desert.
We were also provided some glade tidings of Mangi Dam in the pipeline but that too seems a far cry for now as PHE minister himself acknowledged that it would take three long years to complete. But given the track record of Balochistan’s development schemes, these three years could also be thirty years.
Government should heed to water crisis of this before it slides into an horrible and irreversible situation that the South African country Cape Town. Late last year, the South African government faced the prospect of its largest city running out of water.