Monsoon rain not enough to solve capital's water crisis -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Monsoon rain not enough to solve capital’s water crisis

By: Imran Ali Teepu

ISLAMABAD: With erratic rains since the start of the monsoon season, Islamabad may have to brace itself for a water crisis. But even the capital’s lifeline for water, the Simly Dam, is hardly 14 feet above from the dead level, the civic authority is yet to come up with a contingency plan, Dawn has learnt reliably.

The Pakistan Metrological Department’s predicted a rainy few weeks, but the city has seen intermittent bursts of downpour so far.

“The CDA has not prepared any alternative water resource for meeting the water needs of the city,” a senior official of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) told Dawn on condition of anonymity.

“In the last decade, the monsoon season has soared the Simly Dam’s water level to spill level (maximum storage level), which is at 2,315 feet. But this year it has not been able to cross the half point, which is quite concerning,” insisted the official. “We have recorded 50 per cent less than normal rains this summer,” stated the official.

On the other hand, a Wapda official said the crisis could be worsened if the CDA continued to violate rules in withdrawing water. “The CDA
is not following Wapda’s directions and is drawing more water than written in the Reservoir Operation Rules,” he claimed.

“There was poor management on part of the CDA board and its engineering wing officials, who let more water be drawn in winter season despite the decreased demand. Even now the civic authority is drawing around 23 million gallons per day (mgd) while Wapda has directed the CDA to draw only 19mgd since abnormal water suction from the dam will damage the dam’s storage capacity,” said another official of Wapda.

Islamabad depends on two water reservoirs – the Simly and Khanpur dams – which cover 60mgd of the total 150mgd requirement. This leaves behind a deficit of 90mgd.

Thus a number of residential sectors of the city are currently facing an acute shortage of water, with the worst affected being sectors I-8, I-9, I-10, G-7, G-8, G-10 and G-11.

“We are constantly looking for water during sehri and iftar because the water supply is limited and we have to fill bottles from filtration plants,” said Syed Ali Akbar, a resident of sector I-8/3.

A CDA official close to the current developments remarked: “There is no contingency plan available with the authority to meet any water crisis in the city which puts a question mark on the performance of the civic managers.”

A contingency plan was prepared on Feb 2, 2011 during the tenure of former chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi.

“In it the then CDA board had decided to enhance the supply of available water at Simly Dam by decreasing extractions during March, April and May 2011. Other water sources such as tubewells and Khanpur Dam were to be used instead,” said the official.

“During the summer of 2011, the CDA started to increase water extraction from Simly right up to winter. In the months of January and February, the CDA has continually drawn around 40mgd from Simly Dam, despite less demand due to cold weather,” he claimed. “Now the
Simly Dam reservoir is drying up because of mismanagement,” insisted the official.

When Dawn approached the chairman of the CDA, Farkhand Iqbal, and enquired about the impending water crisis in the city, he said: “You have been given wrong figures and data which does not portray the real situation on the ground. There will be no water crisis in the city.”

“The monsoon rains are yet to hit the city but once a rain cycle begins from this week there will be no more water scarcity in the city besides God will never leave his people thirsty,” remarked the chairman CDA.

Mr Iqbal during his brief comments did not share any data related to the Simly Dam with Dawn, adding: “We have already chalked out a plan and water will be sufficient for the citizens fulfilling the needs up to September 15.”

The chairman, however, could not share the ‘plan’ he has chalked out to address the water crisis of the city.

Mr Iqbal added that with the help of USAID they have already resolved the electricity crisis and now almost over 20 tube wells are operational.

The tube wells, he said, were faulty because their motors were not working besides the continuous outages was a reason of less water supply to different residential units.“The water concern of residents of sectors I-9, I-8 and I-10 stands resolved since the tubewells are supplying water to these sectors as per routine water supply schedule,” insisted the chairman.