Text and photos by Amar Guriro
The sight in Machhar Colony, Karachi’s largest slum settlement, was enough to explain why diarrhoea claims the lives of 20,000 children below the age of five every year all over the city. This scribe witnessed minor children playing near a huge sewerage drain, locally known as a nullah, which was teeming with litter. Several water motors placed on either side of the nullah had a myriad of pipes attached to a water line passing from under the nullah for sucking water for their consumption. Attaching several water motors’ pipes to a drinking water pipeline from under a nullah contaminates the drinking water.
The data of Karachi Water Partnership (KWP) revealed that contaminated drinking water kills almost 30,000 people in Karachi every year, 20,000 of whom are children below the age of five. Majority of these children die due to waterborne diseases, especially diarrhoea.
The shocking figures compelled this scribe to visit Machhar Colony, which is home to about 0.75 million inhabitants that include Biharis, Bangladeshis and Burmese. The colony also suffers from acute shortage of drinking water that has attracted sale of water as a commodity, for which several people have rented shops and built huge tanks inside their shops to store water and sell it to the local people.
The residents said that they buy this contaminated water for Rs 5 per litre, adding that the government should provide them with legal drinking water connections to reduce the additional financial burden of the poverty-stricken people of the colony.
According to the official record of the Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority, there are a total of 539 slum settlements in Karachi, which comprise about 60 percent of the total geographical area of the city. These slums suffer from lack of basic facilities that include access to drinking water, healthcare facilities, state-run schools, electricity and natural gas connections, and an effective sanitation system.
Sunday, September 20, 2009