By the coast: Gwadar residents grapple with water scarcity

Two main sources Akra Kaur Dam and desalination plant are of no use at present

Rashid Saeed
Locals take water from the tanks for daily use. Photo courtesy: Rashid Saeed

QUETTA: The people of Gwadar get air thrown out of the faucet instead of water in their households as the two main sources of water supply to the coastal city are not of help since quite some time now.

Although living by the coast, residents of Gwadar and its environs have to depend on water tankers brought in from other areas since a. Akra Kaur Dam that would supply water has run dry and b. the only desalination plant for Gwadar city and its suburbs that makes seawater useable has been non-functional.

The level of water in Akra Kaur Dam — the sole source of clean water supply to Gwadar — started lowering three to four months back as there was no precipitation. But no efforts were made to deal with the crisis.

The dried up Akra Kaur Dam. 

Usually, it takes a year for a full dam to dry out. Since last year it rained comparatively less in October and November, the water level in Akra Kaur Dam could not be increased.

Another issue is of storage of the dam. The capacity to store water is affected by siltation. The sand and mud carried by wind and rain fill the dam, decreasing the space for water.

The second source, desalination plant, was made operational in 2015, but the convenience it brought was short-lived. The plant worked for two to three months, after which faults started developing in it. Even during those few months, the plant was not desalinating water as per its capacity of two million gallons – not more than 0.3 million gallons of water could be worked on, as per Public Health Engineering Department Balochistan.

However, to solve the issue the department started the supply of tankers fromSawad Dam, situated at a distance of 80 kilometres from Gwadar.

Water is then filled in tanks in the city from where locals collect it for their daily use.

But the measure is unsustainable and does also not fulfil the water supply needs of the people of Gwadar. At present, over 100 tankers are supplying water to Gwadar, but there is a need of 500.

PHE Executive Engineer Shakeel Ahmed said efforts were under way to make the desalination plant functional. He said work would be completed soon. Initial repair cost would be Rs30 million, he added.

Locals are also counting on the promises made by Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri. While talking to the media in Quetta after his return from Beijing, China recently, the chief minister had said the provincial government would not leave the people of Gwadar gasping for water. He had also conveyed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s claim of providing support regarding the issue.

Nevertheless, the government cannot ignore the important of basic facilities in Gwadar more so because the port city is a strategic location of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.