During Saturday’s proceedings, the judicial commission sought from the provincial public health engineering department’s secretary a complete list of functional rural water supply schemes across the province to monitor the quality of water and ensure smooth and unhindered operation of all water supply schemes.
Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro of the Sindh High Court, who is heading the Supreme Court-appointed judicial commission to investigate the authorities’ failure to provide clean drinking water and improve sanitation conditions in Sindh, sought the list by December 23.
At the outset of the proceedings, the chairperson of the taskforce, Jamal Mustafa Syed, filed a progress report for the period of March 16 to December 1, 2017. The commission took the report on its record.
The provincial public health engineering department’s secretary, Tameezuddin Khero, also filed a report, stating that a PC-I for the implementation of the master plan to stop sewage from entering water bodies had been prepared. He said it would be sent to the planning and development department for approval tomorrow (Monday), adding that once approved, the actual work will start within the next three months.
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The secretary informed the commission that necessary funds had already been allocated by the Sindh government for this purpose. He maintained that although the Umerkot and Jati filtration plants were functional, due to the high volume of turbidity and coliform bacteria, water was not being supplied to the people for drinking.
He added, however, that the officials concerned had been directed to take immediate steps to overcome this and ensure supply of potable water to the people within 15 days, adding that a compliance report will be submitted after two weeks.
Rebutting this, taskforce member Dr Ghulam Murtaza said he visited the plant on November 22 on the directives of the commission and found that the filtration plant was non-operational due to repair and maintenance work. He added that some basic equipment was available and there was a shortage of a few machines, which could be supplied without a PC-I, concluding that the non-functional laboratory could be made fully functional to analyse the potable water.
Khero undertook that he will look into the matter and make the laboratory functional within the shortest possible time. Dr Murtaza suggested that a local analyst could be hired for water testing at the laboratory, which the secretary accepted. He was directed to submit a compliance report at the next hearing.
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Khero said all but four of the 237 schemes had been energised, adding that two each will be provided electricity by the Hyderabad and Sukkur power companies within the next 15 days. He added that of all rural water supply schemes, 80 schemes were non-functional, however, he claimed he had directed the officials concerned to resolve the issues impeding work on the schemes.
Muhammad Waris, a senior lawyer for Siemens submitted a compliance report of the order dated November 11 and added that the filter plant Golarchi had been made fully functional and its possession had been handed over to the public health engineering department on November 30 in presence of the Golarchi town committee’s chairman.
Local Government Secretary Muhammad Rizwan Awan confirmed this and added that within 15 days the plant will be handed over to his department for further operation. He assured the issue of dues payment, as raised by Waris, will be resolved in 15 days.
About the reverse osmosis plants in Badin district, the PHE and LG department secretaries jointly stated that the same will be converted into ultra-filtration plants and installed in different areas of the city. Awan said the contractor, Pak Oasis, had offered to carry out said conversion free of charge.
The commission reminded both the secretaries that the issue had been lingering on for many months and therefore they should take immediate steps to alleviate grievances of the people of Badin in respect to having potable drinking water.
Education Secretary Muhammad Iqbal Durrani filed a comprehensive report on the availability of drinking water at schools and colleges across the province. A copy was shared with Dr Murtaza for his analysis on the technical aspects. The commission told the secretary to also provide a copy to the petitioner and taskforce chairperson for further discussion.
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Water and Sanitation Authority, Hyderabad Managing Director Masood Ahmed Jumani also filed a report regarding compliance with the commission’s November 11 order along with copies of the water quality analysis reports. He said a prototype model effluent treatment plant (with the capacity of 100,000 gallons per day) had been installed by Pak Oasis at Darya Khan Pumping Station and was functioning properly.
He said tenders for rehabilitation work of old and new filter plants at Jamshoro Road, Hala Naka, Preetabad and sewerage projects such as phase-III Qasimabad had been received and opened. The evaluation process as per the Sindh Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules had been undertaken and work orders would be issued after completion of the process, he assured.
Filing a report on monitoring of water at government hospitals, Dr Murtaza said that out of 31 tertiary and secondary hospitals, 22 had been visited and water samples collected from 80 points. He maintained that the complete analysis report would be submitted before the next hearing.
He pointed out that there was no water connection or supply line available at the Sindh Government Hospital Saudabad for the last 15 to 20 years, although the hospital management had been paying water bills to the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board. According to Dr Murtaza, due to use of underground water at the hospital, most of the equipment and instruments had rusted.
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The commission directed the health secretary and water board head to investigate the matter, submit their reports and ensure availability of drinking water at the hospital.
Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho filed a report, along with annexures, depicting that all the heads of secondary and tertiary hospitals had been directed to ensure implementation of Sindh Hospital Waste Management Rules, 2014 and provide safe drinking water at their respective hospitals. He maintained that incinerators had been activated at four hospitals and friction heat sterilisation equipment was being procured, adding that after the civil and electrical work at the relevant site was completed, the equipment would be installed. In the report, a list of seven hospitals had also been provided where the incinerators would be installed shortly.
SEPA’s poor performance
The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) director-general filed a report in response to the taskforce chairperson’s report on the causes of the agency’s failure and suggestions for improving its performance. The commission shared the report with the taskforce chairperson and the petitioner to discuss the same on the next date of hearing. Next hearing was fixed on December 23.
Karachi to get five effluent plants
The Supreme Court-appointed judicial commission was informed on Saturday that five combined effluent plants will be established in Karachi.
Federal Planning and Development Secretary Muhammad Shoaib Siddiqui said that a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council was held on November 24 where approval to establish five combined effluent treatment plants in Karachi had been granted.
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According to him, two-third of the cost will be borne by the provincial government, while the remaining funds would be provided from the export development fund. The project is expected to be completed in three years at a cost of Rs11.79 million, he added.
A provincial cabinet meeting has also been scheduled tomorrow (Monday) to discuss draft regulations to operate water hydrants in Karachi, said Local Government Secretary Rizwan Awan. He added that hopefully the regulations would be approved and tabled before the provincial assembly.
Karachi Water and Sewerage Board Managing Director Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi placed on record a report regarding compliance of the commission’s November 11 order, adding that the charges for water tankers had been widely published in daily newspapers in Urdu, English and Sindhi languages for the information of the general public. Work on displaying ehe rates prominently on tankers is under way but will take some more time to complete, he maintained.
On his request, the commission granted an additional one month for this purpose and sought a compliance report.
Zaidi also informed the commission that electromagnetic flow meters were being installed at all water hydrants under the contract to quantify the water drawn by contractors. Along with a report, photographs and a copy of the publication in the newspapers was also filed to the commission.
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Regarding the Right Bank Outfall Drain-II, the provincial irrigation secretary said the tendering process had already been done and physical work on some portions of the project had started. As per plan, the remaining work on the project is likely to be completed in 2019, he added.
Industries Secretary Abdul Raheem Soomro said a meeting between industrialists and the provincial officials had been scheduled on December 12 to discuss the registration of industries. This meeting has been scheduled to understand the viewpoint of industrialists, he added. The commission directed the secretary to expedite the process of registration of industries all over Sindh, which was also a requirement of the law.
Sahutara, Naeem. Judicial commission seeks list of rural water supply schemes. The Express Tribune, December 3, 2017.