ISLAMABAD, July 6: The picture shows households using drinking water carelessly and inconsiderate of the water shortage that is crippling the twin cities.
Ironically, the pictures do not contain any people in this posh residential sector, because they ran away the moment they saw the camera, as if hiding with guilt.
When approached for a comment, several residents argued that water in Islamabad is as abundant as the air they breathe. While others posited that a free swig will be available for many years to come.
And firm in this belief, nobody was willing to concede that it might be wrong to use abundant amounts of drinking water to water their lush lawns or wash their cars every weekend.
The Pakistan Wetlands Programme (PWP), which promotes sustainable conservation of freshwater and marine wetlands, explains this attitude by asserting that until water shortages impact people directly, it is likely that this precious liquid resource will continue to be wasted.
In its self adopted role of promoting conservation of natural resources, PWP officials point out that such poor management of water will continue as long as people do not realize that water running down streets belongs to the state.
“Water is an underground subterranean resource like iron or gold and so belongs to the state according to the law of the land.
But people are illegally extracting groundwater by boring and installing tube wells like it is nobody’s business.
And the worst part is that they waste it in watering their lawns and washing their cars,” expressed a frustrated Richard Garstang, Chief Technical Manager of PWP. He suggested that people should be charged for boring holes and installing tube wells.The expert, who was horrified at the inconsiderate waste of water by residents in Islamabad, explained that in most cases sewerage pipelines were positioned such that boring drills went through them creating a short circuit - mixing sewerage water with the aquifer.
However, when it comes to wastage of water, some measure of civic responsibility is not unimaginable. For example in many countries, people have found innovative but simply ways to conserve water:
“In Mexico and Cape town, South Africa, people with conscience use water on alternate days to decrease wastage. Residents will also cooperate by using strategies like households of odd numbered houses consume water on odd days and their neighbours with even house numbers use water on even days,” said Mr. Garstang.
Explaining how it was unimaginable in these countries to use drinking water for golf courses (like in Islamabad) or washing cars, Richard Garstang said, “People in Cape Town cannot irrigate their lawns with hoses and must use hand held water sprinklers.”
PWP had approached the Capital Development Authority to map the series of bore holes and tube wells in houses in Islamabad, but the service was not welcomed. In fact, the Civic body simply failed to acknowledge the offer.
“There is no law against boring,” said Director Public Relations CDA Ramzan Sajid simply.
But CDA has made its own half hearted attempts to help conserve water.
One attempt was the rainwater harvesting initiative, but Mr. Sajid explained that CDA’s rainwater harvesting initiative did not extend to houses smaller than 500 square yards.
“The concept then was to use rain water for gardening and other purposes,” said the spokesman.
However, he claimed that the 1334 service (a phone complaint line for water, sewage and billing related complaints), started by the previous chairman CDA, Imtiaz Inayat Elahi continued to take complaints related to irresponsible civic attitudes. “CDA environment inspectors also patrol from street to street and fine residents wherever clean water is being wasted,” said Ramzan Sajid.
But this is not achieving much, as water shortages continue to be a serious problem, even in Islamabad.
According to CDA, over a thousand complaints of interrupted water supplies in residential sectors are being received daily and their numbers are increasing day by day as temperatures rise and water becomes increasingly scarce.