KARACHI: Every day traveling long, searching new water sources and filling water in the drums kept on donkey cart and selling it to the residents of different coastal fishermen settlements of Karachi, is a family profession of Muhammad Usman. He grandfather and father were also working as water man, but now it is becoming difficult for him as population is on rise and water sources shrinking.
“There is no pipeline in most of these settlements, so people buy water from us, but now water sources are either drying up or becoming contaminated and I have to travel more every day to find water and despite that I am not paid well,” Usman told Balochistan Express.
Today (Tuesday), March 22 is the World Water Day, an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues and is being observed since 1992 by United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.
For World Water Day 2016, United Nations set a theme “Better water, better jobs” as according to UN almost half of the world’s workers or 1.5 billion people, work in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery. “Yet the millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights. The theme in 2016 — water and jobs — is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies,” said a United Nations (UN) statement issued on the day.
Most of the fishermen settlements of Karachi, which are vastly scattered on the Karachi coast, is suffering with acute water shortage. One can see even political graffiti on the walls is related to water shortage.
Women of these settlements have to walk miles every day to fetch water for their families.
According to a recent report Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water 2016” issued by UK based international charity WaterAid, Pakistan’s 8.6 percent of its total population is living without access to safe water. “Pakistan comes at number ten when it comes to greatest percentage of people living without access to safe water with the number of 16,096,404 people,” stated the report.
Pakistan is among 193 United nations member states, who are committed to reaching everyone everywhere with safe water and sanitation by 2030, under the Goal 6, signed off in September 2015 by UN member states as part of the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
Siddiq Ahmed Khan, Country Representative, WaterAid in Pakistan said that “Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water worldwide: globally, the rate of groundwater extraction is increasing by 1-2% per year. There is clear evidence that groundwater supplies are diminishing, with an estimated 20% of the world’s aquifers being over-exploited”. He further emphasis that “With over 53,300 children under the age of five dying every year in Pakistan mainly because of a lack of access to clean drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene, there is clear case of prioritizing this area and to ensure that basic rights are provided to those who are desperately waiting for these essential services in our country”. On World Water Day, we call upon our government and sector partners to take sustainable actions to achieve UN Global Goals and ensure everyone everywhere is able to realise their right to have clean water by 2030.”
Pakistan’s coastline is stretched to 1050 kilometers out of Baluchistan posses 700 kilometers whereas Sindh’s area is 350 kilometers. Population of Sindh’s coastline is around 2.9 million among which Karachi’s share is around one million. Karachi’s coastline is stretched to around 129 kilometers. There are hundreds of fishing communities villages lies on Karachi’s coastline which starts from Mubarak village to Mubarak village. But most of them are deprived of drinking water.
Though, Karachi is industrial hub, which has best infrastructure, but even then these historical coastal settlements are not considered for water supply by the authorities. According to locals, there is no any pipeline and people have to find water on their own.
“Most of the residents of coastal settlements are extreme poor and water shortage is causing increase in poverty,” said Syed Kamal Shah, a representative of local NGO, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum.
“Coastal areas of Pakistan are under direct influence of oceanic forces. Coastal communities are vulnerable to climate change, particularly sea level rise,” says Shahzadi Tunio, senior manager, WWF-Pakistan.
Tunio adds that coastal communities need adaptation practices, which can make them more resilient, i.e. mangrove plantations, early warning systems, rainwater harvesting, raised platforms for houses and cattle, assisted migration, growing climate resilient crops, alternative energy, microfinance and establishment of village-level disaster committees.