Pakistan’s Gwadar port is facing acute drinking water shortages after a three-year drought in the arid province of Balochistan. Officials
hope the port city will become an international business hub of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – an ambitious US $46 billion project linking the deep water port on the Arabian Sea with the city of Kashgar in western China. But Gwadar city is
facing a growing water crisis, leaving 100,000 people with no access to clean drinking water.
Residents have been forced to buy expensive
water (US $115-140 per tanker) or wait days for government subsidised water transported from 80 kilometres away. Other locals have resorted to boiling sea water for drinking purposes. This is the second time that Gwadar and the surrounding areas in Balochistan
province have suffered major water shortages in six years.
Booming population puts pressure on scant resources .The recent influx of Punjabis factories & Chinese
workers has put more pressure on scant water resources. The city’s population is growing due to the CPEC project and the crisis will become more severe unless urgent steps are taken by the government. A Chinese state owned company took control of the
strategically important port at Gwadar in Pakistan in November last year, signing a deal for over 2,000 acres of land and supposed to have diverted scant water for construction activities. The port has been designated a free trade zone. An official from Gwadar
port says “We rely on bottled water, but poor people here are in bad condition due to the water crisis,”.
crisis for the poor Women, children and the poor have been particularly badly hit by the water shortages, Naseema Ehsan Shah, a female senator from Gwadar city said “Women and children have to load jars or buckets on their heads to carry water from miles
away to meet their domestic needs,” she said. Women also travel for miles just to wash their clothes. “Bibi we don’t expect anything else from you. Please just give us water," Shah quoted a woman in Gwadar as saying during a recent visit
to her constituency. Despite the poverty and other social problems in the city, the water crisis has forced people to forget everything else, she said. “Water is the basic requirement of every human being and we request the government to take steps to
provide this immediately”, said Shah.
Akara Kaur dam The Akara Kaur dam, the only source of water for Gwadar and surrounding areas, has almost dried up because
of neglect by the Government. The dam, designed and built in early 1990s, has failed to keep up with the water demands of the city because of the growing population and the slow accumulation of silt in the reservoir, the senator explained. Gwadar has become
known to the entire world due to the multibillion CPEC project, but nobody knows how its population is suffering due to the water shortages,” said Ms Shah. She criticised the large metro project being constructed in Lahore with an investment of over
one billion dollars under the CPEC. “It would be more appropriate if even half of these funds were diverted towards water supply projects in Gwadar,” she said. “There will be a humanitarian crisis in the city in future if steps are not taken,”
she warned. Earlier the construction of the US $13 million Sawar and Shadi Kaur dams begun by the provincial government in 2007 was suspended after contractors and workers were kidnapped by armed men in 2014. The recent kidnapping of two Chinese workers has
further worsened the situation.