CliftonSewer!

As Clifton gets Drinking Water fit for the Sewer, Water Board Struggles to lay new lines  A significant chunk of Clifton’s residents gets foul-smelling water when they turn on the tap. The culprit is sewage water that has seeped into the mains, a problem that the water board says it doesn’t have enough money to fix.

The phenomenon is particularly bad near the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine (union council 10) where the lines are choked. Residents near the Russian consulate (union council 4) have been facing the same seepage problem because their lines have ruptured. One resident of Clifton Block 4, Shahab Sharif, provided The Express Tribune a photograph of strangely foamy rather than clear water, being supplied to his house. He said he had registered many complaints. Subsequent inquiries revealed that this problem persists in the vicinity of Ziauddin Hospital as well.

There is one technical explanation for the phenomenon, that simply has to do with the fact that Karachi does not have enough water. The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) pumping station at Clifton is supposed to supply water for a couple of hours in a 24-hour cycle. But when water is not supplied for more than 18 hours, sewage seeps back into the ‘empty’ lines, a KWSB engineer told The Express Tribune.

According to him, the initial amount of water pumped into the lines is contaminated but when the pressure is increased within minutes, this little amount of the gutter water mixes with the heavy flush of drinking water, diluting the foul odour. But it is still hazardous to health and an undesirable situation, he said.

In addition to a shortage of water in the city, which is resultantly affecting Clifton at the tail end, there are manmade problems. “The water board is under pressure from influential people,” said Clifton executive engineer for sewage Choudhary Lateef. “Pipelines have also been damaged by people who steal water and so sewage seeps in.” It is not clear what is being done about this phenomenon.

The water board also says that it is strapped for cash, which is why it cannot repair lines. A bigger problem is that the pipelines of Clifton Pumping Station adjacent to the CID Centre in Civil Lines were damaged in the bomb blast, explained Clifton chief engineer Ghulam Ali Qadir. Drainage was suspended and it took Rs35 million to temporarily fix the damage.

The Clifton station is the only way to pump the 24 million gallons of sewage a day from all of Clifton, DHA, Civil Lines, all the five star hotels, Sindh Assembly, Governor House, according to KWSB Chief Engineer Electrical and Mechanical Zahir Abbas Zaidi. The problems people are facing in Clifton all point to this pumping station.

The good news is that the KWSB has completed almost 60 per cent of a new 72-inch sewerage pipeline from the Clifton pumping station up to Bath Island. The work, which started a year ago, is being delayed because they need approval to pass the line underneath a railway track across 300 metres. “It will take another six months provided the work goes ahead uninterrupted,” Qadir said.

The water board said that after one year of persistence, the Pakistan Railways gave it verbal permission to go ahead with the work to lay the four-kilometre long sewage line. “The authorities sitting at the Railway Headquarters in Lahore cannot visualise the situation,” complained Qadir. Delays have affected the cost, which the water board says has gone up from Rs70 million to Rs90 million. An MNA has been helping with the Islamabad paperwork.

For their part, however, the Pakistan Railways divisional superintendent Aftab Memon told The Express Tribune that they had always agreed to KWSB plans for the city. He said that there may have been some technical reason why this particular permission wasn’t being granted.

PR DCO Kamran Saeed, on the other hand, said that there were no delays and as the PR was itself a KWSB client, it would not hold up any work that was in the interest of the people.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2011.

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