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Pakistan

‘Dirty business’ stalls potable water project

Text and photos by Amar Guriro

KARACHI: Camels grazing in the mangrove forest, small fishing boats anchored on shore and naked children playing with dead fish. This scene can be a great opening to a documentary however reality paints a different picture of it.

No one knows the decades of pain the residents of Kaka Pir Goth, a small fishing village near Hawksbay in the outskirts of the city, have suffered. The small village is one of the oldest seaside settlements of the city.
Driving speeding vehicles on broken roads in the humidity, the hurrying picnickers heading towards the huts spread along Hawksbay and Sandspit beaches have never bothered to stop at the village and ask how life is doing there.

Locals say that more than 100,000 picnickers cross the village on Sundays, but despite such a large number visiting the area, the miseries of the village have never made headlines.

Comprising of 127 households and having a population of 650, Kaka Pir is deprived of the basic amenity of potable water. The federal government laid down a pipeline in the area in the late 70s however, it was never made functional and during the last three decades, the villagers either buy potable water or bring it form far away places, hoping that one day they will get water from the government.
However, their dreams remain just dreams until, discovering their difficulties, a multinational paint manufacturing company financed a two kilometer long pipeline project to provide potable water to the village. The news spread like wildfire. However it didn’t take long for their dreams to be crushed as when some influential people of the area, who sold water to the villagers, got wind of the news, they forcibly halted the project.
The construction material for the project is lying idle in the heat. “After hearing the news, we thought that at last our miseries will end, but now it seems we have to suffer for another three decades for water,” said a village fisherwoman.

The village elders remember the winter morning in the late 70s when a team of five arrived and announced that the federal government has planned a water supply scheme for the village. “I remember the day when the team came to our village and we heard that the then Prime Minister Zulfqar Ali Bhutto ordered the provision of water.
The team came to survey the village before laying the pipeline,” said elderly Hashim, adding that the villagers were so happy that no one went fishing and remained in the village to celebrate the news.

After the team’s visit, labourers started digging in the village and the pipeline was laid. Though, the pipeline was installed, the residents of Kaka Pir Goth never received a drop of water. “The pipeline project was completed and then Bhutto was hanged, so authorities forgot to supply water to the pipeline,” said UC Councilor Abdul Ghani.

For the past three decades, water remains a precious commodity for the villagers. The village residents have several relatives in other coastal villages and none of them agree to wed their daughters to the people in this village because of the water problem. From this, one can gauge how the absence of potable water socially affects the people. The nearest place from where water can be bought is two kilometers away.

As the villagers have to go a long distance to fetch water, they consume it with caution and thus, many suffer from kidney related problems. During the visit, this scribe found several physically disabled people; anyone could have can guess that they might be victims of the lack of potable water.

The reason this scribe visited the village was because of the good news of water being supplied there, but the news became sour when the influential people practiced their influence.
The villagers were so afraid of the ‘influential’ that no one dared to name names. “We don’t want any conflict, we are thankful to the company who has came forward with the project and we request that the pipeline be completed so we can finally get potable water,” said a resident.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Daily Times

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About WashMedia-South Asia

WashMedia-South Asia is a group of South Asian journalists working on water, sanitation and hygiene issues. Theses journalists are from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

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