ISLAMABAD, June 24: Mohammad Ali is trying to cash in on a small migratory trend developing but is getting nowhere. The 34-year-old property dealer is having a tough time selling properties to buyers, particularly tenants, because of water shortage in most of the sectors in the capital city.
“Until seven or eight years ago tenants used to negotiate over rents. Now they ask for guarantees about uninterrupted water supply first,” Ali said, explaining how tenants in I sectors (I-9 and I-10) intended to move into the G-11s, where little did they know water shortage was as severe.
Arsalan Ali, the manager of a private firm, who has been searching for a new place to shift, said: “There are alternatives to loadshedding but how does one do without water?”
The migration is explicable, said the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), elaborating on Islamabad’s rapidly depleting underground water supply. Excessive pumping is fast depleting Islamabad’s aquifers.
“Only 10 years ago in some locations water could be found 50 to 100 feet deep. Today people have to bore 250 to 300 feet down for drinking water,” said spokesperson for PCRWR Lubna Bukhari who while sketching a gloomy picture added that permitting people to dig for water on their own was one of the worst mistakes civic authorities could make –every new five marla or eight marla house has its own boring.
According to PCRWR, in some cases, water found 50 to 100 feet below was not fit for human consumption. The council described this kind of water body as perched water - collected down below from leaking drinking water and sewerage pipes and rains.
“It depletes after a year or two. And then people have to bore farther down,” explained Ms Bukhari.
According to the PCRWR, water sources were depleting fast not only because of soaring temperatures and scarce rains but also because not enough people knew about the water crisis in the twin cities and conserve the precious resources.
Experts in PCRWR feared that at the present growth rate of the city water scarcity would soon be the next big challenge.
Director General Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Asif Shuja had already called upon the civic authority to restrict/stop the capital from expanding further to protect natural resources, including water.
According to PCRWR, Pakistan ranked amongst the countries like Egypt, India and China with 1,066 cubic meter/year available for one person (for drinking, bathing, washing clothes etc). By 2025, water consumption per person would fall below the scarcity/critical level of 1,000 cubic meter/yr/person World Health Organisation’s benchmark.
In its recent reports, PCRWR found that Islamabad’s rural areas were most vulnerable to high concentration of nitrate (part per millimetre) in water above the WHO standards.
“Our reports show 100 ppm to 200ppm nitrate levels in water when it should be less than 10ppm,” said the expert in PCRWR, adding how the civic authority’s filtration plants were short-term solution to Islamabad’s water shortage problem.
CDA Member Environment Ibrar Shah conceded that Islamabad's aquifer were depleting faster. But he also believed that rains recharged groundwater enough every year. His major concern seemed the several hours of loadshedding that disrupted water supply to the sectors.
“CDA is providing water from 25 to30 tankers for Rs100 that is for Rs1,000 otherwise. We are also hiring private tankers and provide it for Rs300 tanker each,” said Mr Shah, explaining how CDA was endeavouring to meet the shortfall. He claimed that the civic agency was getting a 1,000 water-related complaints every day and responded to some 700 to 800 of them.