CDA ‘water agents’ continue to give illegal residential and commercial connection in rural Islamabad; main water supply line damaged by illegal connections at several manholes and through excavations underneath
Islamabad (TP): A United Nations agency has recently warned that Pakistan could face severe water scarcity by 2025 if government agencies did not take immediate steps to safeguard the ‘liquid asset’ as water resources are fast depleting while the groundwater level is tumbling with equal pace. While the mismanagement of water resources, silting of dams and reservoirs, dried up lacks and other reserves continue to put strain on natural resources, water theft at the hands of tanker and other mafias is dealing a debilitating blow to the already scared wherewithal.
In Islamabad, water theft at the hands of some low-ranking Capital Development Authority (CDA) officials is going on 24 hours, leaving the residents of sectorial areas, who are supposed to get their due share through piped-water, in the lurch.
Interestingly, the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) on Monday submitted a report to the Supreme Court, claiming depleting surface and groundwater resources, poor management, leakage from the existing water supply lines and wastage as the main reasons for the water scarcity in Islamabad.
The MCI report has flatly, and cunningly, swept the actual theft activity and illegal connections — given to residential and commercial enterprises in rural Islamabad by some CDA officials — under the carpet. These illegal connections and stealing of water have been depriving the urban residents, getting the commodity from the main 48-diameter width and 30-kilometre-long pipeline that had been laid down, with the help of the Japan government, from Simy Dam to central parts of the capital.
Interestingly, the Japan government through a memorandum had bounded the CDA to take extreme care of the special pipeline against damages through dents and illegal connections, however, the special line has had many holes done by the “CDA’s water agents”. The CDA “water agents” come out on the night and give illegal connections to the residents of rural areas from Bara Kahu to Naiabadi and up to Bari Imam. The thriving black market is run by the CDA agents with impunity, pushing the city to the verge of a water-scarcity town.
Illegal connections at several water manholes also sunk deep in the ground through excavations. While a majority of Islamabad urban residents live without water or receive for a few hours daily, most of the rural residents, commercial enterprises and service stations receive the commodity almost the whole day through these illegal connections. Although the exact number of the these illegal connections given by this network of CDA mafia is not known, the figure roughly stands between 20,000 to 30,000 and the long-neglected and corrupted water system of the CDA is near the verge of collapse.
According to available documents and sources, the CDA water mafia and its agents are an organized group led by a few players, who routinely outwit the authorities and even if are caught and face informal inquiries, they do away with suspension orders, but they never give up their activity.
The so-called inquiries go on and on, while the CDA agents led by foremen Saifullah and fitter of production division Muhammad Ilyas (both currently suspended) continue to allocate illegal connections to residential, commercial and institutions. Interestingly, both Saifullah and Ilyas, who have been transferred to HRD OFFIce, continue to draw salaries and other grants despite being suspended.
“Under Regulation 8.05 of CDA Employees (Service) Regulation 1992, the services of Mr. Saifullah, Foreman and Muhammad Ilyas, Fitter of Production Division-I are hereby by suspended with immediate effect. During their suspension, they will draw subsistence grant equal to full pay and allowance that they were drawing immediately before their suspension,” says one of their suspension orders signed by Director Water Supply.
During the probe of the whole affair, it was seen on several spots that these agents led by Saifullah and Ilyas have given thousands of illegal connections to residential and commercial areas of rural Islamabad by charging Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 per connection. The “proceeds” of these illegal connections also allegedly goes to their pockets of some high-ranking CDA officials who allow this network to do its work, which they call public service. In return, these illegal connections suck almost 30 percent of CDA water that is the due share of Islamabad urban residents, who pay regular water bills but most of them get a trifling share that too after every second day.
Interestingly, over 60 illegal service stations have been set up through these illegal connections from Bara Kahu to Bari Imam and these illegal service stations get full-pressured running water from the main CAD pipeline from dawn to dusk while the sectorial areas of Islamabad continue to face severe water shortage.
According to one CDA foreman, whenever the enforcement team takes action against illegal connections, MCI area Nazims and councillors approach CDA and MCI high-ups asking them to instruct the teams not to sever connections of their voters, and most of often, the enforcement teams return without achieving the desired results. And if they catch the agents of this water mafia and report to the CDA high-ups, they launch formal inquiries and hardly anyone gets punished.
According to the sources, the water mafia and their agents have given thousands of illegal residential and commercial connections and continue to enjoy the “proceeds” of this dishonest activity from the beneficiaries every month. The CDA high-ups have kept a complete mum over the whole shoddy affair. On serious complaints from the duty staff, the CDA high-ups give superficial punishment to the culprits in the shape of suspension orders and inquiries while the suspended officials (Saifullah and Ilyas and others) continue to do their shabby work with impunity.
During interaction with CDA and MCI senior officials, it transpired that the “proceeds” from the illegal connections end up going into the pockets of Saifullah, Ilyas and some other senior civic agency officials, causing millions of rupees monthly losses to the CDA — the manager and the distributor of water resources in Islamabad.
According to the sources, Saifullah and his henchmen are so prevailing that they harass, stalk, threaten and beat CDA duty staff if they put up resistance or dared to stop them from giving illegal connections. “Saifullah and his agents beat up one of our foreman and fatally injured him in the head a year back after he reported their illegal activity to the CDA high-ups. Later, the injured staff member died of cancer after his head injury did not heal,” claimed one of the MCI official requesting anonymity as, according to him, if he was identified, he could face the same fate. Traces of Saifullah and his agents’ night’s activity is ubiquitous in rural areas of Islamabad, the residents of urban areas continue to bear the brunt of their sordid work.
Interestingly, former Senate chairman Nayar Bukhari has also been getting water through an illegal connection from the CDA water pipeline passing through the area near his palatial estate in one of the rural areas of Islamabad.
The settled and rural areas of Islamabad get 77.60 million gallon daily (MGD) water against a total demand of 220 MGD for a population of about 2.170 million.
Currently, the daily water production from Simly Dam, which has the original storage capacity of 42MGD, is estimated at 24.50MGD. A total of 1.20 MGD water is being supplied to Islamabad from Korang Dam which has the total capacity of 2.40 MGD.
According to an MCI official, there are a total of 193 tube-wells across Islamabad and of them, 160 were operational while 33 were out of order and water is also supplied from these tube-wells.
Though the dry spells have put a strain on the surface and groundwater resources, it was illegal connections and rampant theft that has created water shortage in the city. “The dams and tube-wells can easily cater to the needs of Islamabad round the year if the CDA deals with these illegal connections and theft with iron-fist,” a CDA official said suggesting establishing “check dams” to store the water released through spillways when reservoirs are filled by the rainwater.
According to one MCI senior official, the experiment of bringing the ICT Administration and the CDA under the umbrella of the MCI remained an awful experiment.
“The MCI mayor instead of taking input from the ICT Administration and the CDA to sort out the water woes of rural and urban Islamabad oscillated from the MCI secretariat to CDA headquarters as its chairman and enjoyed all the perks and privileges while paying a scant attention to issues facing the capital city. At the same time, the ICT Administration officials continue to gulp down the allocated funds for water projects. They have not launched a single water project in the last many years for the rural areas, which fall in their purview, but continue to steal water from the CDA main pipeline without being billed or directly paying to the civic agency. These illegal connections and stolen water are not only depriving the urban residents of their due share but also causing millions of rupees losses to the CDA each month,” the MCI official said adding that either the MCI should be financially made independent through proper allocations or the whole local government system should be done away with in Islamabad.
He also demanded that an inquiry should also be launched against the ICT Administration officials as how and where did they utilize the allocated funds for water projects in the last so many years, as according to him, the ICT Administration officials have failed to launch a mega project to cater to the water needs of rural Islamabad, which continue to steal the CDA water 24-hour and round-the-year without paying a single penny under the head of billing.
During a visit to areas in Bari Imam and Bara Kahu, it was witnessed that the 48-inch CDA main pipeline had been damaged at several locations through illegal connections, and a plenty of water continue to leak. Another CDA official said that if the illegal connections were done away with and the rural areas were regularized through legal connections, water was enough in the dams and tube-wells to cater to the needs of both rural and urban Islamabad for the whole year. “The CDA will also earn an income through billing if the rural areas are brought under the water connections regime,” he said adding that if the CDA, the ICT Administration and the MCI had supplied piped water to everyone, why would anyone look to the mafia and damage the expensive pipeline.
According to one official, the CDA continues to pay back to the Japan government for the pipeline that had been laid against a loan sum.