Sewage-mixed water being supplied to several areas of Karachi for last several months is the leading cause of outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea, cholera and other waterborne diseases and has resulted in the deaths of several adults and children in the city, healthcare professionals and officials said.
People from different localities in Jamshed Quarters, Saddar, Landhi, Korangi and Malir have complained that the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) have been supplying stinking water for the last several months. They say this water is useless for them as it cannot be used for any household chores, except gardening.
“For the last several months, people in our area have been buying water not only for drinking but also for bathing, cleaning and other household chores, as it appears that water is being supplied directly from the gutter line,” Muhammad Amir, a resident of Jamshed Road No. 3, said.
Other residents of the area said they were forced to buy water from the tanker mafia on a daily and weekly basis, which supplied somewhat clean water. They said they had to buy water from different desalination plants as well, and buying clean drinking water had become a major financial burden for them.
Residents from several other areas also made the same complaint, saying that the issue of sewage-mixed water had become a major issue for them and despite making complaints to the KWSB as well as to District Municipal Corporation (DMC) authorities, no steps were being taken by any authority to provide them with clean drinking water.
“Recently, when I raised this issue with an official of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, he told me that we should be thankful to them for supplying the water, as in many areas, not a single drop of water has been supplied for the last many years,” said Ahmed Ali, a resident of Martin Quarters.
Officials at the KWSB themselves conceded that over 90 per cent of the water being supplied in Karachi was contaminated and contained bacteria like E. coli, coliform bacteria, Salmonella Typhi, which causes typhoid as well as Vibrio cholera which causes cholera.
“The presence of E. coli and other bacteria indicates that sewage-mixed water is being supplied to most of the residents in Karachi,” said the official, who requested anonymity.
Dr Faisal Mehmood, an infectious diseases expert at the Aga Khan University, said they had been seeing acute watery diarrhea and cholera cases for the last 10 months, saying the supply of contaminated water was the main cause of waterborne diseases in Karachi and other cities of Sindh.
“Even if people use clean drinking water, they eat food from hotels, food stalls and drink beverages sold on the roads which may contain the microorganisms for causing waterborne diseases like acute watery-diarrhea and cholera,” he said and advised people to take extreme precaution in eating and drinking during outbreaks of waterborne diseases.
He maintained that waterborne diseases could provide extremely fatal for children who have less water in their bodies due to their small size and they lose most of the water in their bodies due to watery stools and vomiting, and if fluids are not replaced timely, their kidneys stop working leading to death within a few hours.
“So the best option is to drink purified water or at least boil the water for 10-15 minutes to kill all the harmful germs in it. People should avoid using the ice sold on the roads as it may be produced by using contaminated water while efforts should be made not to eat from roadside stalls.