Citizens in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi are going weeks without seeing a single drop of water thanks to criminal gangs that have monopolized the distribution of the vital resource.
Spurred by a large population that is willing to pay top dollar for water, the former drug cartels have moved to the lucrative water market, making sure the vital resource is only provided to those willing to pay and not the deserving masses.
Water mafias hidden in the outskirts of Karachi tap into underground water pipelines that are state owned and illegally pump out water originally meant for the residents of Karachi. The water is then sold to residents at sky high prices which many residents cannot afford.
According to city reports, water traders with as much as 30 to 40 tankers of water earn as much as $16,000 day.
The city’s water supply board paints a gloomy picture of water availability.
Karachi has a population of 18 million and is rapidly growing by the days as more people move away from the war torn north to the country’s capital. Most of Karachi’s water is from the Indus River, which has a flow of close to 550 million gallons a day. The Hub Dam supplements this figure with another 100 million gallons a day.
In recent years, however, drought has hit the city’s supply badly, lessening drastically the water supply available, against a demand of 1.2 billion gallons a day. The city board estimates that only 50 per cent of the city’s water needs can be met. It also reports that up to 30 per cent of the city’s water is stolen and sold by tankers.
Police bent on cracking down on the water cartels are having a hard time doing so due to the strong demand present. The more they conduct raids, the bigger the demand, sending water prices up two fold.
To further exacerbate matters, some of the illegal cartels are protected by powerful officials benefitting from the syphoning of public water.
According to a local trader, "They are holding us by the necks basically and this is all because a few big people are involved in this and who are the caretakers and who are the people who are making money. There are people on higher levels involved."
Pakistan’s Karachi water crisis is so bad, hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets often to appeal for the provision of water by the government not every day, simply once a week. So severe is the shortage that residents sometimes go up to three months without having water. Most opt to take underground water unbearably laced with salt.
For some, sewage pipes are the only alternative.
Pakistan is ranked number 80 among the 122 nations index on the provision of healthy clean water. This means that over 44 per cent of Pakistanis have no access to clean water, exposing them to a myriad health complications. The Pakistani government, seemingly preoccupied with war, continues to ignore these illicit water cartels to the detriment of its people.