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60pc of Karachi's population has no access to sewerage system

60pc of Karachi's population has no access to sewerage system

KARACHI: All that ails the city’s water and sewerage system was a topic of discussion on Wednesday at a consultative workshop where speakers suggested an autonomous professional body to manage the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) which they described as a “de-facto bankrupt utility.”

The KWSB, they shared, was facing a real crisis on account of increased political interference, over-staffing, lack of accountability and transparency.

Concern was also showed over the growing vertical expansion of the city lacking proper planning which would aggravate civic problems. Karachi at present provided sewerage system to only 40pc of its population and also faced 50pc water shortage.

Titled ‘Reform Led Investment Programme (RLIP) for the KWSB’, the two-day workshop was organised by the KWSB in collaboration with the World Bank-Pakistan.

In his opening remarks, KWSB managing director Misbahuddin Farid underlined the need for institutional reforms at the utility and said the growth pattern in the city over the last two decades indicated that construction activities had been carried out without proper infrastructural development that “can cause serious damage to the economy and human life.”

The RLIP, he said, was the first step towards improvement focusing on the financial health of the utility, its structure, as well as integrating the entire system into a business value chain.

Later, speaking to Dawn, Mr Farid said the WB had been engaged in talks with the government and the KWSB for many months and had agreed to extend support in terms of expertise and finances provided “we make positive changes at the KWSB. The foremost is the restructuring of the KWSB board, making it an effective autonomous body comprising professionals and other relevant stakeholders.”

“The WB has shown interest in investing over $500m but has reservations over the way the KWSB is currently being run. They want an effective supervision in place with no political interference in the utility’s matter before proceeding further,” he said, hoping that the collaboration would materialise.

Regarding the city’s water woes, Jaafar Friaa, the WB Pakistan programme leader, said Karachi received only 550 million gallons daily, which was 55pc of its total water requirement that would jump to 1400MGD in four years.

The assessment of the city’s water system by his team, he said, had shown that access to water and sanitation was limited.

“Water (in most cases) is available for 2 to four hours per day at a very low pressure and with questionable quality. Only around 8 million people in the city have access to sewerage system,” he observed.

According to Mr Friaa, the yearly expenditure of KWSB is $106million while it earns $60m revenue.

“Its yearly electricity bill is $66m whereas total outstanding arrears estimated at $460m. The payable debt to the K-Electric is $320m. Less than half of its 1.7m consumers pay monthly water bills,” he said, adding that 6.5 employees existed per 1,000 connections which was twice the international bench mark (2/1000).

Neil Macleod, an expert on the water service sector, pointed out that the discharge of the city’s 450MGD untreated sewage into the sea was not only contributing to environmental degradation but had also made the option of desalination an impractical choice.

“The adequacy of water resources from the rivers beyond 2035 and desalination is an option. However, given the poor quality of sea water as a result of high level sea pollution, this option is impractical in the present circumstances,” he noted.

Coming to institutional issues, he said staff training was either inadequate or non-existent at the KWSB and the utility didn’t recognise customer management as a key aspect of business.

On problems at the legal side, Mr Macleod said: “The legislation that established the board doesn’t specify the set of skills that are needed to enable the board to exercise oversight over the executive management of KWSB.”

Experts were of the opinion that large investment was needed to bring additional water to the rapidly growing metropolis but that exercise would be futile if the institution was not reformed and leakages were not plugged.

Published in Dawn December 15th, 2016

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