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Clean drinking water, still a dream

Friday, July 26, 2013
Text and photos by Amar Guriro

KARACHI: Girls in traditional Sindhi Ajraks carrying tins, pots and plastic cans, walk the unpaved streets filled with garbage heaps and scavenger dogs to fetch water from the muddy village pond.

Located just on the edge of Arabian Sea in the outskirts of Karachi, Dabla Paro is supposed to be one of the oldest fishermen hamlets in the city. Lined with broken boats lying outside humble huts, the village paints the picture of neglect and State apathy towards the residents.

The group of young women carrying pots and pitchers on their heads move towards a small hole, filled with murky water. Despite being a historical settlement, the village has been deprived of drinking water, proper sanitation system, streetlights, health unit and even a school. Comprised of around 150 households, the residents of the village after getting disappointed from the state-run department to provide them with potable water, broke a pipeline passing near the village and dug a small pond to collect water. 

Every day, young girls and women of the village fetch the murky pond water for their families. Due to the tampering in the pipeline and unsafe collecting method, the water gets contaminated and thus, skin problems like scabies, abdominal diseases and other waterborne illnesses are common among the villagers, and as usual, women and children are the worst victims. 

Though there are dozens of small settlements, traditional villages of indigenous fisher folk and farmers are still living without proper water supply schemes.

Apart from using the murky water from the pond for cooking and drinking purposes, the women also wash clothes in the pool every day. "In the absence of water facility in our village, life is very tough, especially for women and children," said Safia, a mother of three. 

"Loose motion and diarrhoea is common in the village, especially among newborn and infants, who suffer the most due to lack of basic health facilities or state-run hospital in the area," said Shahzadi Mallah. 

According to official data, out of the total 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Sindh, the most important target to reduce mortality rate of children under 5, has now become impossible to achieve. Health experts say that apart from different diseases, waterborne illnesses, especially diarrhoea, which contributes a major role in child mortality. 

The mortality rate of children under 5 is as high as 100 deaths per 1,000 live births against a target of 52. 

A recent report issued by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the status of MGDs in Sindh stated that provision of safe drinking water in Sindh is still a dream. During the launching ceremony of the report, Senior Minister Sindh Nisar Ahmed Khoro admitted that Sindh government has failed to ensure the completion of water supply schemes in the province. "It was unfortunate that around 1,200 schemes related to water supply couldn't be completed," he said.

This village, Dablo Paro, is not alone, but most of the 160 fishing villages along the coastline of Karachi are without basic facilities. The residents catch fish and contribute a major chunk to the national exchequer, but in return they are not given even basic facilities like clean drinking water, health, education and sanitation system. 

Most of the residents of these villages complain that they have always supported the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), but while the party is in power, the villagers stay neglected till the next voting season. 

"We have always supported PPP but they did nothing for us. They did not even give clean drinking water to our village, let alone health and education, or a proper sanitation system," said Nawaz Dablo, a resident of the village.


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