Bilawal’s Initiative: H2O: Karachi’s islands have cleaner water than the bottled one

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KARACHI: It is common knowledge that there is a shortage of water in the city. People don’t have enough clean drinking water – or even dirty water to use for their daily chores.

So considering that the situation is bad within the city limits, it’s only safe to assume that it is worse on the islands that surround the city. Wrong.

While the islands around Keamari, Baba and Bhit, have been neglected by the government and city administration time and again, there are people taking an initiative to ensure that the people living there have access to safe and clean drinking water. These people include the patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, his father and uncle.

Feeling parched

The seawater along the coasts of these islands is filthy and full of garbage. Three months ago Pak Oasis Pvt Ltd set up and is currently running a water filteration plant for the islands. They manage to distribute water to the entire village – about 17,000 people. Eventually, the adjoining village will also receive water and they will be able to provide another 15,000 people with clean water.

This project is being run under the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Water Schemes for Lyari and Keamari. The reverse osmosis plant – RO2 – was initiated in 2010 was finally completed last year and became functional three months ago when the water board gave it access to water. The plant runs at a cost of Rs140 million and is generating about 0.1million gallons of water for the village.

Bilawal Bhutto took a special interest in setting up the project when he visited the plant nearly four years ago. At the time, he said he wanted to build a village which would serve as a model for others. This village, he claimed, he would monitor himself to make sure that there was running water available for fishermen.

A water expert from Dubai, David James, was visiting the islands for monitoring purposes and claimed that this was a model project and should be replicated all over the city.

“The desalination plants here use the latest reverse osmosis technology to provide safe drinking water to everyone on the island,” he said. “Despite the high levels of pollution in the seawater, it goes through a pretreatment and water conditioning process to ensure that it meets the World Health Organisation standards.

The water expert claimed that this water was better than bottled water.

Thirsty for more?

With access to clean water, many villagers claim they can finally relax.

Bashir said that being a fisherman, he knew that life was tough but having access to an unlimited supply of water was nothing short of a miracle. “Now my children can bathe with clean water whenever they want,” he said. “My wife can cook meals without running across the village to get water.”

According to another villager, Salma, she used to send her youngest daughter to get a can of water for Rs40 every day. “My husband would bring Rs50 or Rs100 home every day and more than half of the money would go on purchasing a limited amount of water.”

Nargis, a lady health worker who lives on the islands, said that the project had been a blessing for them as they didn’t have to worry about water any more.

The president of the Pakistan Fishermen Union, Dr Yousuf, claimed that since the plant was installed, more than 99% of their thirst for water had been quenched.

Published in The Express Tribune, July , 2014.

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