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‘Water Crisis Would Force Citizens To Flee Quetta’

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Experts have said that if the underground water table level remains decreasing at the rate it currently is, people will be without water and will be forced to flee the valley.

Currently, the water situation in Quetta is so miserable that the main water connection that used to distribute water to the city has run out. Residents are forced to get their water from the government filtration plants scattered around the city.

Suriya, 42, walks two kilometers to fill her drinking pots from the water plants installed by the government around Quetta, the capital of Balochistan which has a population of more than 2.6 million people.

Suriya says that drinking water was no longer available from the water connection that used to distribute water to the city. The current drought and the trends of urbanisation have made water scarcity a major issue for the population.

“A single water tanker costs 1100 rupees, and we utilise two tankers per month,” Suriya said, adding that the tanker water was not safe for health.

Suriya’s son was hospitalized, following which the doctor advised her to use filter water for drinking as the illness was caused by tanker water.

Many residents have even been forced to sell their homes in areas where there exists water scarcity or water has completely run out.

A retired officer, Dost Muhamad, 65, told Naya Daur that he was intending to sell his house situated on Brewery Road in the west of Quetta. “A single tanker sells its water for Rs2000 rupees. We’re living upon the will of tanker mafias, and the government-built tube wells were either not working or officials, in connection with the mafia, made it dysfunctional.”

Like Dost Muhammad, thousands of people are forced to buy potable drinking water bottles each day.

Quetta used to be called little Paris for its controlled population of 50000 that has now reached 2.6 million people as per the Census department report of 2017.

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Dr Alam Tareen, who heads the Sociology Department at the University of Balochistan said that the figure given by the census department was not accurate as people from other districts who are working here are not included in the number given by the department.

Balochistan University’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Faculty Dean Dr Din Muhammad Kakar was of the view that the underground water level before 2000 was between 400 and 600. “Now it is disturbed, and water can be reached at between 900 and 1200 feet.”

He added that if the underground water table decreased at the same rate, Quetta would have no underground water in the coming decade and people would be forced to flee the valley.

Dr Kakar further stated, “If the government lacks emergency plans for water restoration and keeping the underground water table stable, the people will leave the city owing to the issue.”

He criticized the planning and government institutions, including the Water and Sanitation Authority, People’s Primary Health Care Initiative, Irrigation Department and the Quetta Cantonment Board, which he said lacked future planning and were not serious about resolving the water crisis.

“The government was provided a plan for rainwater storage by the Asian Development Bank in 1999-2000. Had that plan been followed, we would not be facing the prevailing the water crisis,” he opined.

Dr Kakar added, “In 1987, the underground water table was 50 feet below the earth’s crust and the flow pressure was 150 feet. In 2019 the water level went down to 1250 feet in some areas around Quetta. In 2016, we needed 36 million gallons of water per day for Quetta city while now, we need 52 million gallons.”

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Dr Kakar also revealed the existence of many tube wells. Near Airport Road’s Sheikhmanda region, there were 20 illegal tube wells within a single square kilometer.

He further stated that recent measures by the provincial government to deal with the matter only included providing water to the Defense Housing Society in the city and there was no focus on making dams and other storage infrastructure.

Sana Baloch, a member of the opposition in the Balochistan Assembly endorsed Dr Kakar viewpoint. “The government does not have any plan. They need to have a 20 to 30 years long plan to overcome the water crisis, otherwise not only Quetta but the whole of the province will become a desert,” Baloch opined.

The MPA stated that there was a need of political will and serious decision making by following the nations who had overcome the impact of climate change and urbanisation.

The Water And Sanitation Department Managing Director Aslam Magsi said, “Out of 430 tube wells, some 50 have dried up. We only have 380 functioning tube wells to provide useable water around the city.”

Provincial assembly spokesperson Liaqat Shahwani stated that three departments, People’s Primary Healthcare Initiate, WASA and the Irrigation department were working hard to meet the water needs of the city’s residents.

He added that the government has planned to monitor the illegal tube wells, and would be making 170 government tube wells functional.

“The Mangi, Kech and Burj Aziz Khan Dams are extensions of the government’s plans to store a maximum amount of water in the future,” said Shahwani.

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