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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Pakistan: Islamabad Citizens Demand Better Pipe Maintenance


November 2006

Water shortage is not a problem in Islamabad, Pakistan. The problem is that much water is lost because of badly maintained pipes, frustrating Islamabads citizens and prompting them to demand immediate action. What solutions does the government have to reduce the citys water losses? CITIZENS CALL ATTENTION TO PIPE LEAKS

The CDA estimates that the average water supply to the city from surrounding water resources, including dams and tube wells, is about 112 million gallons per day. Of these, 42 million come from Simly Dam, the citys main source. But water losses are not only caused by punctured pipes. The city loses water right from the time water leaves the dam, because of the water distribution networks poorly maintained filtration plants. Those in charge at the plant do not usually have the relevant qualification and experience, says Muhammad Jahangir, project manager at The Network for Consumers Protection, a national, public interest, nonprofit organization that ensures consumer rights through education and training. Water is also lost due to unauthorized water connections in the main conduction line from Simly to Islamabad, which, according to Jahangir, has to be checked by the CDA more efficiently. Meanwhile, leakages also occur in the main line that distributes water to residential areas, while corrosion of old pipes and damages done by digging and other public works contribute to the problem.

For 24 year old Islamabad citizen and businessman Rizwan Abbasi, having to make his way through dirty puddles when he goes to work has become a daily routine. I go through this road daily to attend to my shop, but my shoes and clothes are often splashed with muddy water. Pipe leakages have become an everyday eyesore in the Pakistan capital, filling the citys streets with muddy ponds. Pedestrians often get splattered with stagnant water when a speeding car passes by, Sanaullah, another citizen, says. Its a huge leakage and thousands of gallons of water run out on the road everyday, making it difficult for pedestrians like us, Abbasi said of the punctured pipeline near the Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan at Zero Pointthe countrys busiest interchange. Sanaullah adds, Drinking water gets wasted due to leakages, and as a result, we receive little water at our homes. What Abbasi and Sanaullah experience everyday is far from uncommon, due largely to the poor maintenance of water supply pipelines in the city. They are among the many Islamabad citizens who have had enough of these pipe problems and are calling upon the government to take action. We have lodged our complaints with the Capital Development Authority (CDA) several times to repair this puncture in pipes, Sanaullah adds. The CDA is the government agency in charge of the water supply network, including pipe maintenance. ITS NOT JUST PUNCTURED PIPES Almost 60 percent of Islamabads water for drinking and household use gets wasted, according to a study carried out by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), a local, policy-oriented, research institute.

MORE WATER PROBLEMS Islamabad s huge water losses have caused serious water shortages in the city, especially during the summer. However, Arshad Abbasi, Advisor on Water and the World Trade Organization at the SDPI, says that there is no actual shortage of water in the capital, but that most of the water is lost to leakages. This makes the low supply of water seem much worse than it actually is. Jahangir adds that leaked pipes also pose threats to the general publics health. The mixing of dirty water at the leakage points, due to intermittent supply, causes major water-borne diseases. When the supply stops, these leaking valves act as suction points, he said. These leak points become the passageways for bacteria and other microorganisms to enter the system. Taslim Khan, deputy director at CDA, concedes that there is an unusually high level of water leakages. But he also adds that there are other factors that cause the shortage, such as low rainfall, low level of underground water, and wastage at the consumers end.

PLUGGING THE LEAKS To cope with the shortage, Khan says that the CDA is planning to run pipes from the Tarbela reservoir, 60 kilometers west of Islamabad, for the development of the new sectors in the city. Some water experts are against this, however, claiming that there is no need to bring in water from Tarbela to Islamabad, since the capital has enough water to cater to its citizens needs. The problem is poor maintenance of water supply pipes and the need to plug leakages. Islamabad has the highest per capita water in Asia, but in reality consumers receive less water due to loss of water from source to consumer, Arshad Abbasi says. Most of the wastage can be stopped if the leakages are plugged. Jahangir adds that it would help if the government sets up an emergency telephone line so people can inform authorities when they see leaking pipes. Until this communication link is in place, Islamabad residents will have to resort to other ways of voicing their demands for better water services.

RELATED LINK Nonrevenue Water: A Governance Challenge

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Based on the article of Sheharyar Khan, Asia Water Wire journalist The views expressed in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms. *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in November 2006: http://www.adb.org/Water/Actions/pak/islamabad-citizens.asp. The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADBs member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADBs Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.